With spring training in full swing, it is time for predictions to be made, teams to be put up on pedestals, and others to either stay in, or be thrown into, the basement.
Predictions will be done by division going West to East, starting with the American League and then going to the National League.
I am looking forward to this baseball season more than others in recent memory. There are a lot of teams that took steps forward in the offseason, which is something that should provide heated races long into September. There are also a lot of young stars who will be making impacts and who will be asked to play huge roles, which can make or break a team's season.
Will the Giants repeat as World Series champs?
Will a traditional power win or will a team that has recently struggled find a way to win?
Only time will tell, but right now is the best time of the season: the time to be bold and put your stamp on what you see for happening in 2011. Here's to another year of baseball.
Kendry Morales and Jered Weaver will help the Halos contend for the AL West title.
Every Angels' fan remembers this as one of the defining moments of the 2010 season. A walk-off home run led to the team losing arguably their best player and a real leader in the clubhouse for the rest of the season.
So what does the 2011 season have in store?
I see a complete turnaround from the disappointment Los Angeles saw a year ago. I see the Angels winning the division. They have a proven No. 1 starter in Jared Weaver and he will help to anchor the staff. He has the ability to take over a game and strike out 10-plus batters on any given night.
Add that to the fact that Kendry Morales can put up Mark Teixeira (pre-2010) numbers and this team has the chance to win the division once again. The perfect storm is brewing with the Athletics, Mariners and Rangers all having sub-par teams, so let's see if the Angels can take advantage.
The young pitching core will be outshined by another youngster: Daric Barton.
Don't get me wrong, I think that Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill will be the cornerstones of this Athletics franchise for years to come. Anyone else reminded of the years with Hudson, Zito and Mulder?
Having said this, I also think Daric Barton will take this year and turn into one of the top first basemen in the American League.
He may never be Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, but Barton has the chance to become a longtime contributor to the Athletics organization. He is a stud on the defensive side of the ball, which will keep him on the field even though he is a young player.
He has the capability to hit anywhere from 15-to-20 home runs, knock in 70-to-80 runs and score 80-to-90 runs. He is not a speedster, but which first baseman is?
Keep an eye on this guy as he takes the year to cement his place among his Oakland teammates.
Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda will finish 1-2 in the AL Rookie of the Year race.
Both of these kids can flat-out play ball, and both of them will make a serious impact on an up-and-coming Mariners squad. They will both be asked, most likely from Day 1, to carry the team at second base and anchor the back end of the starting rotation respectively.
Ackley has both speed and power and he can be a force either in the middle of the Seattle lineup or as the No. 9 hitter to provide a spark, which would allow him to score a ton of runs.
Pineda will most likely be the No. 5 starter, but it is common knowledge that he is a future ace and probably the second-best pitcher on the staff. Look for 8-10 wins and a low ERA and WHIP on a sub-par team.
As for the Rookie of the Year trophy, at this point I give it to Ackley, but we will see what happens during the season.
They will miss Vlad Guerrero more than Cliff Lee.
Call me crazy, but I think the loss of Vlad impacts the Rangers more than losing Cliff Lee. Now how can this be? It's quite simple actually.
Losing Vlad has stirred the pot, causing trouble with Michael Young, the biggest mainstay and team player in Arlington. They thought that getting rid of Guerrero would allow Young to slip into the DH role, but he still wants to play the field and he is now demanding a trade. This is not something that bodes well for the Rangers, considering it is only the beginning of spring training.
In regards to Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson is ready to step up and be a No. 1 starter. Also, one of the least talked-about moves of the offseason landed Brandon Webb in Texas. If, and this is a big if, Brandon Webb can be anything close to what he was before his injury, the Rangers will have struck gold and will use him and his sinker as far as they will take them.
Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin find their forms.
I have a feeling that the White Sox are going to do big things this year. If you don't believe me, I'll show you my fantasy roster.
Gordon Beckham is going to regain the game he had during his rookie campaign. He is simply too good of a hitter to have another year like 2010. I see him hitting 18-to-20 home runs and putting up 75 in the runs and RBI categories. He is geared for a big year, as is Carlos Quentin.
Quentin is one of the most underrated and often-forgotten power hitters in the game, and this is mostly due to his injury concerns. When Quentin is on the field, he is one of the top producers at any position, but his problem is staying healthy. He has put in a lot of work over the offseason and he is ready to play 150-plus games. I look for him to be among the league leaders in home runs and to eclipse the century mark in RBI.
The Tribe finishes over .500.
Call me crazy, but I see a lot of promise with this Indians club. I expect Matt LaPorta will be ready to step up to the plate and have a monster year. Throw in Shin-Soo Choo, who is one of the most underrated players in baseball, Carlos Santana and everyone's favorite Indian, Grady Sizemore, coming back from injury to round out the team's leaders.
On the pitching staff, there is concern but also a lot of potential and room for improvement. Fausto Carmona has not had a good year in a long time, but he is repeating his delivery with much more consistency and I think that will help bring him back to being a respectable major-league pitcher.
I also think it is time for Justin Masterson to step up, and I think he can become the ace of this staff. Although he may be the ace by default, there is a lot of undeveloped potential in his game. If he could pitch like he did with the Red Sox every outing, you could pencil him in for the Cy Young.
Verlander and Scherzer lead Tigers to ALCS.
This duo is one of the best 1-2 starting punches in baseball. Scherzer had a lot of hype surrounding him since Day 1 in Arizona, but he has really blossomed with the Tigers. Both of these pitchers have the potential to win 20 games, and a combination like this in the playoffs can take teams a long way.
Not only is it the pitching, but the upgrades on offense have also really helped this team. If Victor Martinez can stay healthy, he will be a switch-hitting force in the middle of the lineup. Hopefully Miguel Cabrera can right his ship and fix his off-the-field issues, because when he is on the field and he has a clear head, he is obviously one of the best players in baseball.
With Jim Leyland at the helm, this team can do a lot, and I see them going from a .500 club in 2010 to eclipsing the 90-win mark in 2011.
The farm system will turn into the Major League roster.
The Royals' current players are not good enough to do anything, so why not take this year as an opportunity to give some of their minor-league players some big-league experience?
For my money, I would take the Royals farm system over any other team's. With the likes of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy all possibly seeing big-league time this year (Moustakas may even be the opening day starter), this is going to look more like a Triple-A team then a big-league squad.
With that being said, the Royals will have their share of growing pains and probably finish last in the division with a well-below .500 record. This year will be the best learning experience these young kids could ask for, and it will give them seasoning for years to come. This may not be the year for the Royals, but I would keep an eye out for this team in the future.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be the team MVP.
Who will be the team MVP? That's right, the Twins new up-the-middle player from Japan will pay big dividends for the club in his first MLB season. He was a standout player overseas and I see no reason why he would not continue to progress with the Twins.
With Justin Morneau still suffering from the effects of a lingering concussion, I do not know whether or not the Twins have all the pieces to make a playoff run.
The starting pitching staff is very suspect. You never know about Francisco Liriano's health and Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing are big question marks too. There is a big drop off after that.
The lineup can be very good, but there is a real lack of power and some of the pieces may not gel too well together.
All in all, I see the Twins winning somewhere between 80-85 games, but not making the playoffs in a very-balanced AL Central.
Matt Wieters finally fulfills hype, O's Finish third in the division.
The Orioles have been in the basement for a long time, and this year it is finally their turn to take a step forward. Their progress really started last season with the hiring of Buck Showalter as manager. That proved to the fans and other teams that a new regime was coming into town. He brought focus and confidence to the team, not to mention a winning mentality.
Just take a look at the stats: The team was 31-73 before Showalter was named manager, and 35-23 after he took over. I cannot think of a better manager to right the ship that was once the crown jewel of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
After they got proper management, they needed to bolster their lineup in order to make more of a splash than their 2010 campaign.
With the signing of Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds, the Orioles addressed their main issue from last season: a lack of power. These signings give huge upgrades at first base and DH. It allows Luke Scott to move into the outfield along with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, while it takes a lot of the pressure off of the young star Matt Wieters.
I see this being his breakout year. He was always burdened by having to single-handedly turn around the O's, and now that he has some help I think he can flourish in the system. Combine this with some young stars, led by Brian Matusz, and you have the No. 3 team in the AL East.
Red Sox win it all, if they can keep the injury bug away.
This team has made leaps and bounds from their 2010 form and I think it will be hoisting the World Series trophy this fall.
Last year was riddled with injury after injury. It is hard to compete when your two best offensive players (Pedroia and Youkilis) are lost for the year, along with a rising star in Jacoby Ellsbury. Couple that with the loss of Clay Buchholz after he hurt himself running the bases and you have a recipe for disaster.
Even with all the injuries, down seasons from Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jonathon Papelbon and constant changes throughout the lineup, the Sox still managed an 89-win season, and were poised for a big offseason.
When Red Sox fans saw that the team traded for Adrian Gonzalez, they thought the offseason couldn't get any better. But when the club also signed Carl Crawford, the streets of Beantown were filled with cheers and every person you passed was smiling from ear to ear.
This gave the Red Sox a lineup in which their projected top six batters are Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz. There is not team that can come close to that speed, power and sheer run-producing ability.
If you look at the Red Sox pitching staff, it could just as easily carry them if their offense has an off day (days which will be few and far between). Jon Lester could be a No. 1 starter for any team in baseball, Clay Buchholz could easily win 18-20 games and possible bounce back seasons from Lackey, Beckett and Dice-K would give them one of the best rotations in baseball.
The Sox also did a great job of bolstering their bullpen, adding Bobby Jenks and keeping the firearms of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. This club has the total package and they are my pick to win it all.
Offense and bullpen will be stellar, but lack of pitching depth kills them down stretch.
The Yankees still have one of the strongest offenses in the league. With the likes of A-Rod, Tex and Cano, they can easily hang with the Red Sox on the offensive side of the ball. With a comeback season from the captain and Curtis Granderson, the Yanks will cause some noise come October.
Their bullpen is also one of the best in baseball. With the addition of Rafael Soriano, they now have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball with him and Mariano. Throw in David Robertson and they only need their starters to go six innings to get a win locked up.
So what is holding me back from calling the Yankees a real contender? The answer is simple: starting pitching. No one can deny that the slimmed down CC and Phil Hughes are one of the best combos in baseball, but I worry about what comes after that. I have never been a fan of A.J. Burnett, and I think this season will be like every other he has had with the Yankees. He will be their No. 3 starter, but he will also be a constant concern and sore spot during the season.
To round out the rotation, the Yankees do not have much. Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre will fight for the No. 4 and 5 spots, but then there is a big stretch to the other competitors. When I start to hear names like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, it tells me the team is both worried and desperate.
For the Yankees to contend, I look for them to try and trade for a pitcher like Carlos Zambrano from the Chicago Cubs. However, in the absence of a trade for a quality starter, I see the Yanks falling short of the playoffs.
Starting pitching stellar, offense and bllpen (or lack thereof) brutal from opening day.
The Rays are the blueprint for succeeding in a small market. They draft better than anyone else and produce high-end prospect after high-end prospect. Their starting staff is a testament to their work. The Rays have two No. 1 starters in Jeremy Hellickson and David Price. Combine this with the underrated Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, and the Rays can compete with any team in the AL East.
Their problems come when you look at the other two areas of their team: offense and the bullpen. There was a fire sale this year and the Rays got rid of a lot of their talent. On the offensive side, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena were both huge losses.
Although they still have players like B.J Upton and Evan Longoria and they signed ageless-wonders Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, the Rays just lost too much on the offensive side to compete.
If you think that what the Rays lost offensively was bad, take a look at their bullpen. They lost their closer, Rafael Soriano, and one of their mainstays in Grant Balfour. This left the team with no real closer, no true setup man and a lot of questions going into 2011.
Why did we ever sign Bautista and let Marcum go?
The Blue Jays will finish last in the AL East this season, and they will have a very long season. The Blue Jays lost a lot in the offseason, with their best pitcher Shaun Marcum and closer Kevin Gregg finding new homes. They did sign Frank Francisco to take over as closer and Rajai Davis for some speed at the top of the lineup, but they also had to unload the huge contract of Vernon Wells.
Toronto should have done everything they could to keep Marcum. He is one of the best young pitchers in the game and someone who could have a squad built around him.
The Blue Jays will also regret signing Jose Bautista. This guy had one good year in his career, and I just don't see how there cannot be a considerable drop off. At age 30, it is hard to believe he will keep up with what he did in 2010, and I think the club could have better used the money elsewhere.
Not all is bad in Toronto, however. The team has some rising stars in J.P Arencibia and Kyle Drabek. They will both be with the major league squad this year, and although there will be some growing pains in 2011, look for them to be future stars in the years to come.
Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy will be All-Stars.
Daniel who and Ian what? These two kids have the opportunity to make a big splash in the National League this season. Both are reportedly coming into opening day healthy, and will be the best two pitchers on the D'Backs team (sorry, Joe Saunders). Both of these players will have good strikeout totals to anchor this staff, along with the possibility of earning 15-plus wins.
The future is starting to look up a bit in Arizona. They got rid of Mark Reynolds, their resident king of strikeouts, and finally got a closer they can count on in J.J. Putz.
If players like Justin Upton and Chris Young can have strong years, and Kelly Johnson can put up numbers even similar to what he did last year, fans should not sleep on the Diamondbacks. In the end, I do not think Arizona has enough pieces to make the playoffs, but do not be surprised if they make a run.
Chris Iannetta will finally contribute.
It's finally here. Rockies fans have heard year after year that Chris Iannetta would be a catcher they could depend on, and year after year he has underperformed. After a trip to the minors last year, Iannetta saw his numbers start to stabilize and really blossomed from that experience. I think he takes that little bit of tough love and breaks through in a big way this season.
What to expect numbers-wise from Iannetta? I would not be surprised if he went over the 20-to-25 home run mark at Coors Field, and knocked in 70-to-80 RBI with Gonzalez, Tulo and Fowler hitting ahead of him. Look for him to either bat cleanup or in the five-hole and produce solid numbers throughout the year. He has the chance to finish as a top-five fantasy catcher if he continues to work hard and improve day in and day out.
Jonathan Broxton returns to form.
After last year's debacle, losing his confidence and being taken out of the closer's role, I think it is time for him to bounce back with full force and be the dominant player he was in 2009. The Dodgers can hopefully stay away from the injury bug this year, which will give him a chance to close and pitch in meaningful games on a more regular basis.
The Dodgers will most likely not be able to blow teams out, so this will give Broxton a lot of chances to close games. I would expect anywhere from 35-to-40 saves and a sub-2.00 ERA. With Kenley Jansen breathing down his neck, I think he will turn his second-half woes into motivation and come out strong during the 2011 campaign.
Adrian Gonzalez, you will be missed.
I don't buy the hype on the Padres. Even with some strong pickups in the offseason, there is no replacing a guy like Adrian Gonzalez on this team. He was such a presence on and off the field, and someone who commanded respect from his teammates and his competitors. I think the team will look to rebuild within the next year or two, but it will experience some growing pains in the 2011 season.
Even though it is shaping up to be a tough year, there are some bright spots for the Padres.
Mat Latos has proven that he has the capabilities to be a No. 1 starter on any team, and pitching in Petco Park will only help his chances for a low ERA and high win total. Cameron Maybin is someone who can turn heads and really have a big year. If players like Jason Bartlett and Ryan Ludwick can resurrect their careers in sunny San Diego, maybe the turnaround will come sooner than we think.
They're going back to the World Series.
They may not be the popular pick to make it to the big dance because of the star-studded cast in Philadelphia, but they are my pick. Even with the losses of Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe, they have the unique combination of veteran leadership and the charisma that comes from young players making an impact in the league.
Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner will continue to shine with the Giants, and the midseason arrival of 1B Brandon Belt will help propel them into the World Series.
The big question: Do they repeat as champions?
Although I think they have a chance, I do not see them as the best team in baseball. They will make things interesting and you can never rule anything out when you have a starting three of Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez (with Bumgarner as your No. 4 starter). Look for them to be back in the World Series and push the series to seven games.
Each Carlos will have a big impact, but one for only half the season.
Carlos Pena is going to have a big year for the Cubs. Playing half his games at Wrigley will only help boost his home-run total. He could wind up going over the century mark in RBI, and his average has to go up (simply because of the fact that it can't go down much more than it did last year).
The Cubbies' other Carlos will make a big impact for them as well.
Big Z will end up winning somewhere between 17 and 19 games, but I do not see him making it through the season with the team. While on the mound during the second half of the year, Zambrano was spectacular. If he starts this year anyway like he finished the last, the Cubs will start shopping him and his big contract, and I think he is someone the Yankees would be able to pay and die to have.
The Reds can challenge any team in baseball.
This may be a stretch for some people, but the Reds can hang with, and beat, the likes of the Phillies, Giants or anyone else in the National League. They have such a strong lineup. With Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen all in the same lineup, they have the bats to hit with some of the best lineups in the league.
Their pitching staff is also one of the top young rotations in baseball. With the likes of Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, the underrated Bronson Arroyo and youngsters Homer Bailey, Travis Wood and Mike Leake, the Reds have some of the best pitchers under 30 in baseball.
Combine this with a bullpen that has Francisco Cordero and Aroldis Chapman, and I give the Reds a great chance in any playoff series they are a part of.
J.A. Happ will be the ace of the staff.
This kid had all the makings to be a No. 1 starter and this year is his chance. After being sent over in the Roy Oswalt deal, Happ has the chance to be a centerpiece of this team and someone that the Astros can build around in the future.
Even though the Astros have Wandy Rodriguez, he has been overvalued every year and he never fails to disappoint. Happ will take over the staff, whether it is during spring training or at some point during the year. He will be the go-to pitcher on this staff.
With a little help from Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, the Astros will be able to improve on their woeful 2010 campaign, surprise some teams and play the spoiler of 2011.
The Brewers can win this division, but will fall just short.
When push comes to shove, I think the NL Central is the most balanced division in baseball. It has three teams that could potentially win a World Series title this season. I have already talked about the Reds and will get to the Cardinals, but the Brewers have made a lot of offseason upgrades. With a few bounce-back performances, they could have one of the most dangerous teams in baseball.
One of the Brew Crew's offseason focuses was on their starting rotation, and they made great strides from their 2010 group. Headlined by former Cy Young-winner Zack Greinke, the team has a proven No. 1 starter who is looking to regain his 2009 form after a down season on a putrid Kansas City squad.
To go along with Greinke, the Brewers signed Shaun Marcum, who could easily win 15 games, and they still have Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf to round out their starters. On the offensive side, the Crew will look for a comeback performance from Ryan Braun and stellar seasons from their stars Rickie Weeks, Casey McGehee, Corey Hart and Prince Fielder.
This is one of the most potent lineups going into the 2011 season. Add this to John Axford, who showed the ability to be a big-time closer last season, and you have a team that can contend for the division title.
James McDonald is the impact rookie of the NL Central.
McDonald will be asked to head a pitching staff that is anything but star-studded. If a team cannot even win an arbitration hearing against 1-11 pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, how can they be expected to compete in the most balanced division in baseball?
McDonald can come in, have double-digit wins and be the face of the Pirates pitching staff for the foreseeable future. They are the real bottom-feeder of this division, but they have some potential for years to come.
Most of their potential is on the offensive side of the ball and it is centered around Andrew McCutchen. He is one of the best players in the National League. With players like Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata, the Bucks can make some noise in a few years.
Don't expect too much out of this season, though.
The Cardinals will not win the division, but will win the Albert Pujols sweepstakes.
As I said, this has to be the most competitive and balanced division in baseball. Along with the Brewers and Reds, the Cardinals are a team that I would not be surprised to see make a deep run into October.
The Cardinals starting three of Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia took a hit when Wainwright went down this spring. However, Jake Westbrook and a hopefully-healthy Kyle Lohse will keep them competitive.
Whenever a team has Albert Pujols, you can never count them out of anything. Although the Cardinals will fall short this year, they will win out on something much more important to their club's future—the signing of Albert Pujols. It will not happen during the season, but it will get done before he becomes a free agent.
The Cardinals want him and he wants to be a Cardinal. They will find a happy ground in between his reported request of the Cardinals giving up their future just to keep him with a deal for 10 years worth $30 million a year, and what they are currently willing to pay.
Cardinals fans may not have much to cheer about when the team falls short in the late-season race, but they will be more than pleased when the club locks up Pujols for the rest of his career.
Young guns and comeback kids make a run at the NL Wild Card.
There are so many people who are overlooking the Braves in 2011. They did have a major loss and will be a different team without Bobby Cox at the helm, but this team still has a lot to be happy about going into the season.
The Braves have some young studs who will be asked to play a huge role in 2011. Freddie Freeman will be a fresh-out-of-the-farm starter, and the team will also look for big years from Jason Heyward and Mike Minor. Freeman is seen as a player who can be the Chipper Jones of first base for a long time in Atlanta, while Heyward and Minor will look to improve even more.
The Braves are also looking for comeback performances from some of their veterans, mainly Jones and Nate McLouth. At the age of 38, the injury bug caught up with Jones. He lost most of his 2010 campaign to knee problems and he is looking for a farewell tour this season. He has the potential for a solid year and he could help the Braves make the playoffs.
McLouth was dealing with some lingering injuries last year, but there is no other way to describe his play but terrible. Last spring training he was 6 for 51, and this led to a .190 batting average during the year and a trip to the minors. In his first spring training game this year he was 2 for 2, so let's hope he can continue that trend into this season.
All these players will make huge differences. Along with the new addition of Dan Uggla, the Braves will be neck-and-neck with the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Wild Card.
The Injury bug will hit. Hard.
Call it a freak feeling if you want, but I think the 2011 season will be a very long one for fans and players on the Marlins. They have some of the best young talent in baseball with players like Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Josh Johnson. Sad to say, I just have a sense that some of these players will experience serious growing pains and the others will be plagued with injury.
The two players who I think will be hit the hardest are Ramirez and Johnson.
Ramirez is one of the toughest players in the game, but he has an unorthodox throwing motion that worries me. I think that he will run into some arm trouble and it will bench him for some part of the season.
The other player I see running into trouble is Johnson. He has had injury problems in the past, and I think that after a stellar year in 2010, injury will again catch up with him.
Because of these two injuries and the growing pains that come with a young team, the Marlins will look at this season as a chance to give their younger players more seasoning and then bounce back in 2012.
They give it one more shot with their core.
This year will be the last hurrah for the Mets team centered around Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright if they do not have a great year. In simpler terms, this will be the last year for a Mets team centered around Reyes, Beltran, and Wright.
The Mets will struggle this year. They have some young talent with Ike Davis and Dillon Gee, but their age and injuries will catch up to them once again (not to mention the lack of funding they now have with the fallout from the Bernie Madoff fiasco).
The Mets do have some things to look forward to this year. They may have found a diamond in the rough with the signing of Chris Young. Although he has had some injury problems, he is still only 31 and, when healthy, he has the stuff of a No. 1 starter.
You can also look at R.A. Dickey as a wild card. He had a great season with 11 wins and an ERA of 2.84. If these players can have solid seasons coupled with Gee and Johan Santana (who will return at some point during the season), the Mets can have a very undervalued pitching staff.
The lineup is not getting any younger and it has not gelled in the past, so there is no real evidence to say they will work well this year. For the Mets to get better, they need to cut their losses with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. They have been cancerous to the team and it is time for them to get replacements for both these players.
Look for the Mets to start dismantling their team around Memorial Day, probably looking to move Reyes and Beltran for some young pieces.
The "Big Four" starters do not make it through the season.
The Phillies may have one of the best pitching staffs in the history of baseball, but they also have one of the most over-hyped offenses I have ever seen.
They have an aging Jimmy Rollins, who has not had a good season in the last four years. Couple that with the injury problems of Chase Utley. Placido Polanco, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez,and Shane Victorino, all have seen the best part of their careers come and go. This offense is very highly touted, but it is all based on past laurels, and the team will show its age this year on the offensive side of the ball.
So how does this concern the dominant pitching staff the Phils have? They may be able to have pitchers who will only let up 2-to-3 runs per game, but if the offense cannot score then it is all for nothing. With the problems the Phillies offense will have, I look for one of their pitchers, most likely Roy Oswalt, to be dealt for another offensive piece.
This may be one of the best pitching staffs to ever grace major league baseball, but because of the holes in the retirement home-worthy offense, it will be dismantled for a big bat in the early summer.
Jayson Werth wasn't worth it.
The Nationals gave Jayson Werth a seven-year deal worth $126 million, which comes out to roughly $18 million a year. All I have to say is wow.
This team is paying Werth the contract of a superstar for a player who is only just above average. He reaped the benefits of playing with the Phillies' lineup when they were in their prime and he got a lot of RBI and scored a lot of runs simply because of the offense he played in.
Werth is a solid player, but he is not the corner piece of a team. He does improve the offense, and an offense with Werth, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman in the middle is nothing to laugh at. Put speedsters like Ian Desmond and Nyjer Morgan at the top of the lineup, and they have a top five that can compete in the National League.
Even though they can compete, they really overpaid for Werth and lost a lot of their investment opportunities in younger players or other players they can build the team around with the $18 million a year they are giving up.
The money they gave to Werth would have been much better spent on some quality starting pitching. When your opening day starter is Livan Hernandez, your team needs help in the starting rotation. They will have Stephen Strasburg back next year. When you put him with Jordan Zimmerman, they have a great one-two punch, but after those two there is a big drop off.
Hopefully Luis Atilano can develop further and maybe they can pick up some more starters and groom them into quality pitchers for the future. With all this said and done, the Nats are more looking forward to the return of Strasburg than they are to any games this year. They will use this season to gain experience and retool for the return of their best player in 2012.