MLB Preview 2011: Picking Each Team's “Sure Thing” Player for the Season
There are few "sure things" in life. Some that come to mind are death and taxes, which are not exactly what most people like to think about. But, with the baseball season less than four weeks away, lets take a look at each team's "money player" for the 2011 season. "Sure thing" will be defined as anybody who has and will put up consistent numbers over a minimum of a three year period. We aren't looking for flashes in the pan as much as legitimate stars who have been and will be consistent throughout this season and their career.
Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees)
When you start with consistent players, there are really only two that have been rock solid throughout their careers: Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Both of which have been MVP's and both are locks for the Hall of Fame. The only difference right now is the age. You can chalk A-Rod up for .300+ average, 30 home runs and 100 plus RBI.
Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay Rays)
Longoria has been a model of consistency for the Rays. He has averaged 27 home runs the past three seasons along with 100 RBI. He will be asked to carry more of the offensive load this season with the loss of Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford. He is one of the top three, if not the top third baseman in baseball and will show it again this year.
Ricky Romero (Toronto Blue Jays)
This was a tough one to come up with because of the turnover on the Blue Jays roster. I like Ricky Romero, well because his win totals from 2009 and 2010 are exactly one different (13 to 14 wins). His ERA has dropped by more about half a run and has top of the rotation stuff. Romero will be a solid starter again this year for the new look Jays.
Vladimir Guerrero (Baltimore Orioles)
Guerrero is in this category because of his consistency when he gets over 400 at bats. Looking at his stats, his lines are amazingly consistent when this happens. Anything less than the 400 bats will cause his numbers drop dramatically. He is averaging over 30 home runs and 100 RBI when reaching that plateau. If he can keep the form that he did in Texas last year, expect a big season from Vladdy Daddy.
David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
Big Papi is winding down what's been a very solid career. He is in the same category as Vladimir Guerrero when it comes to being healthy. If he reaches 400+ at bats, his numbers are staggering. If not, the media and fans call for his retirement and Papi gets upset. When Papi ain't happy, ain't nobody happy and the Sox fans should be extremely happy this year.
Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins)
Joe Mauer is arguably one of the top five players in the league. Sure, his power numbers aren't what they were in 2009 when he won the MVP but his average sure was. Mauer is a pure hitter. You can take it to the bank he'll hit at least 30-40 doubles a year and hit over .330. Consistency from the toughest position on the field makes him a star and expect this year to be no different.
Joakim Soria (Kansas City Royals)
Soria is the lone all-star on the Royals this year. Billy Butler may be one in the near future and of course any of the "farm" that they have coming could all become all-stars, but Soria is the one bullet in the Royals chamber that is a given. He is averaging over 38 saves the past three years for a team that has really struggled for the past 20.
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
To say Cabrera has had a rough spring would be an understatement. Unfortunately, this has been the case two of the past three years with regards to alcohol. When Cabrera is right, he is another top five player in the Major Leagues. 34, 37, 34 and 38 are his home run totals the past four seasons with over 100 RBI going back to 2004. Those numbers scream consistency and that's what you get with Cabrera, when he's right.
Paul Konerko (Chicago White Sox)
"Paulie" re-signed with the White Sox this offseason in somewhat of a surprise. Many people thought he would opt to sign with the D-Backs but his heart stayed in Chicago and that's where he'll likely finish his career. What are the Sox getting? Only an average of 34 home runs the past seven seasons with 97 RBI. Konerko and Adam Dunn will be a formidable duo in Chicago for the next couple years.
Shin-Soo Choo (Cleveland Indians)
One of the most unheralded stars in the game is Shin-Soo Choo. Choo is entering his third year in Cleveland and has improved his numbers in all three years. The Indians are in a tough spot waiting for Grady Sizemore to come back while nurturing along a very young team. Choo is a star and a bright spot at the Jake.
Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers)
Josh Hamilton is the face of the Rangers franchise. He signed a two year contract this offseason and there's no reason to believe it won't become a long term deal. The only thing holding him back is injury. Looking at the Rangers roster though, there isn't necessarily one person who you can count on to play 162 games. Hamilton is a stud and the star in the Lone Star state.
Ichiro (Seattle Mariners)
There isn't much more consistent players in the Majors than Ichiro Suzuki. His power numbers have never been there but the high batting average and the 200 hit seasons are givens. This is his 11th season in the majors and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of signs of slowing down.
Torii Hunter (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
Hunter may not cover the same ground in the outfield that earned him multiple gold gloves and all-star appearances but he can still hit. His average of .285, 93 rbi and 25 home runs over the past five years are pretty solid for a guy who's "lost a step" according to some scouts. Hunter is the most consistent player on the Angels roster and has been a model of consistency throughout his career.
Hideki Matsui (Oakland Athletics)
The Oakland representative is a newcomer to the team but a familiar face in the American Leauge. "Godzilla" has been putting up solid numbers since his arrival in 2003. His lone "down" years have come when he has been injured. He isn't going to knock in the 100+ runs that he did early in his career but will be a solid bat in an otherwise punchless Oakland line-up.
Brian McCann (Atlanta Braves)
McCann is arguably the best offensive catcher in baseball. What Mauer is to batting average for the position, McCann is the consistent power source. He has averaged 21 home runs that past five seasons along with 89 RBI. With the additions the Braves made this off-season and the new guys, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, the Braves will be in business for a long time to come.
Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals)
Zimmerman is a top three third baseman. His numbers across the board are consistent with Longoria but not quite at A-Rod's level yet. He is still the face of the franchise even with Strasburg and Harper becoming bigger and bigger names. Expect Zimmerman to continue to put up even bigger numbers in the future.
Hanley Ramirez (Florida Marlins)
Ramirez has hit over .300 the past four seasons and was just a tick under in 2006. He is a five category player who has a batting title to his name (.342 in 2009). He is the Marlins' best player and arguably one of the top five players in the league. You can bank on him having quality numbers.
Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies)
Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. It's scary to think the number two in the Phillies rotation is a top five pitcher as well, but Halladay is the best in the business. Complete games, wins, strikeouts and ERA, "Doc" is at the top of each category. The switch of leagues last year showed how dominant of pitcher he is and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
David Wright (New York Mets)
Wright is one of the few bright spots for the Mets. Sure they have Santana (injury), Beltran (hasn't performed like a $100 million contract), Reyes (injury risk), K-Rod (family issues) but Wright has been the constant the past six seasons. His lone "off" year in 2009 was offset by his rebound year in 2010. He is the model professional for the Mets both on and off the field.
Carlos Lee (Houston Astros)
El Caballo has been over the 100 RBI plateau in three of four seasons with Houston. Last year was one of his worst all-around years with a .246 average and 89 RBI. Still, he is a constant in the Astros lineup and very well could be counting his days in Houston. Until that day comes though, look for Lee to get back to the numbers that have made him a solid, power outfielder for the past seven seasons.
Aramis Ramirez (Chicago Cubs)
Ramirez has been a fixture at third base for the past eight seasons. His numbers are solid all the way across the board and as Ramirez goes, so do the Cubs. It's not a coincidence that the past two seasons the Cubs have struggled as Ramirez has been hurt during that time. When he's healthy, he's shown he can carry a team for weeks at a time. With all the negative on field activities that the Cubs have endured this offseason, Ramirez will be the constant offensive threat at the plate.
Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals)
You can talk about all the stars from each team that have been consistent over the past few seasons, but nobody has come close to what King Albert has done. The best player of the last decade hands down, Pujols AVERAGES .300, 30 home runs and 100 rbi a season. Most players will look at those numbers and say that was a career year but Pujols does this annually. He's the most consistent player in the majors period.
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers)
Braun's numbers will improve this year as his partner in crime, Prince Fielder, will be playing for a huge contract. You can make the argument Braun will do just fine if Prince isn't with the Brew Crew next year. In his four years of service, Braun is averaging 32 home runs and 105 RBI in his short playing career. He signed a team friendly deal in 2008 and hasn't disappointed since. He's a legitimate superstar and his upside is huge.
Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
This is a reach and it seems like I always have McCutchen on these lists, but frankly, there isn't much else right now in Pittsburgh. McCutchen has hit .286 his first two seasons with 12 and 16 home runs respectively. McCutchen's game revolves around his legs. He has stolen 22 and 33 bases the past two seasons. I hope, for the sake of Pittsburgh, McCutchen can continue to put up these numbers and put Pittsburgh baseball back on the national map.
Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds)
Votto earned the MVP award last year putting up his best season as a pro. Looking for consistency on the Reds proved to be a one stop shop with Votto. Prior to his MVP season last year, Votto hit 24 and 25 home runs and drove in 84 runs both of those seasons. His average has also been on the rise the past three seasons. The Reds locked up for the next three years.
Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies)
"Tulo" is another player that ultimately determines the fate of his team. In three of the past four years, Tulo has knocked in 90+ runs and averaged 20+ home runs. His lone down year was 2008 when he missed significant time with injury. The Rockies were able to lock him up through 2020 which is amazing in today's game, but the Rockies seem set on Tulo being their rock in the line up. If Carlos Gonzalez can maintain the numbers he turned out last year, the Rockies will be in great shape for the next few years.
Heath Bell (San Diego Padres)
Bell is one of the elite closers in baseball. He has 42 and 47 saves the past two seasons that he was promoted to closer upon the departure of saves king Trevor Hoffman. Bell signed a one year deal with the Padres for 2011 but it remains to be seen if he will stay with the Padres throughout the season.
Tim Lincecum (San Francisco Giants)
"The Freak" has win totals of 18, 15 and 16 the past three seasons. In those three seasons, he has two Cy-Young awards to his credit. 2010 was an "off year" for Lincecum who really struggled in August but went 4-1 in the post season with a 2.43 ERA. Lincecum is the ace of a staff that is ripe with talent in Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner and will be in a position to repeat in 2011.
James Loney (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Loney is kind of the forgotten star with the Dodgers. Matt Kemp tends to get most of the print and Andre Ethier has put up solids numbers but James Loney has been the most consistent of the three of them. The last three years, he's hit 13, 13 and 10 home runs while driving in 90, 90 and 88 over that same time frame. Loney is a solid first baseman but never will be mentioned with the likes of Pujols, Cabrera and Fielder but consistency is king and Loney is that.
Stephen Drew (Arizona Diamondbacks)
This last player was a tough call as Drew isn't as popular as player as maybe Justin Upton or Chris Young. However, Drew's numbers are more consistent than both of them. He plays a solid shortstop and averaged 15 home runs and 63 RBI. There isn't a lot of fluctuation in his numbers which makes him about as consistent as you can get.