Saturday, February 28, 2015

2015 National League West Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the National League East and National League Central previews and check back next week for the American League East.

San Francisco Giants
Who's New: 
Carlos Triunfel, SS (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Casey McGehee, 3B (Trade from Marlins)
Ronny Cedeno, IF (Free Agent from Diamondbacks)
Justin Maxwell, OF (Free Agent from Royals)
Nori Aoki, OF (Free Agent from Royals)
Curtis Partch, RP (Free Agent from Reds)
Robert Coello, RP (Free Agent from Orioles)
Who Left:  
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Michael Morse, 1B (Free Agent to Marlins)
Nick Noonan, IF (Free Agent to Yankees)
Tony Abreu, IF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Dan Uggla, 2B (Free Agent to Nationals)
Marco Scutaro, IF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Tyler Colvin, OF (Free Agent to Marlins)
Chris Dominguez, OF (Free Agent to Reds)
Mike Kickham, RP (Free Agent to Cubs)
Mitchell Boggs, RP (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Winter Headlines:  
Boche's genius, MadBum's arm do it again.
What to Expect?:
With Matt Cain coming back and Madison Bumgarner becoming the ace of the staff, the Giants should have even more pitching strength.  Losing the power of Sandoval's bat could slow the offense but the pitching and solid defense should keep the opposition's run production low and keep the team in a lot of close games.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
As a Phillies and Dodgers fan, having seen this team win three titles this decade it pains me to have to find a reason to root for the hated ones.  Still,  this organization is in the middle of a winning era that has not been seen since Bill Terry-Mel Ott-Carl Hubbell days.  In fact this group is probably even more successful than the Terry group and you would really need to go back to the McGraw-Mathewson days to find a Giants group this successful.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Giants Fans Want?:
The pitching depth past Cain-Bumgarner has some questions. It was great to see Jake Peavey win a title and Tim Lincecum still has flashes of greatness.  The problem is the inconsistency of those two.  What happens if they don't perform the way they did last year?
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
For the last few years the Giants have seen big power numbers from Pablo Sandoval at third base.  His replacement this year will be Casey McGehee.  Casey is a solid bat in the lineup but he is not going to replace the numbers that Sandoval had.
Expect Great Things From:
Speaking of the McGraw-Mathewson era, Buster Posey is the best Catcher this team has had since Chief Meyers or Roger Bresnahan in the 1900s and 1910s.  Posey is a special player and when all is said and done his name will be among the greatest for an organization that has some of the greatest of all time.
Is This His Last Chance?:
After winning the World Series it would be tough to put anyone in this category.  Winning solves a lot of problems and gets a lot of people off the hook.
Prediction:1st in NL West.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Who's New?:
Ryan Lavarnway, C (Waiver Claim from Red Sox)
Jimmy Rollins, SS (Trade from Phillies)
Howie Kendrick, 2B (Trade from Angels)
Enrique Hernandez, IF (Trade from Marlins)
Yasmani Grandal, C (Trade from Padres)
Lars Anderson, IF (Free Agent from Cubs)
Ali Solis, C (Free Agent from Rays)
Chris Heisey, OF (Trade from Reds)
Matt Carson, OF (Free Agent from Indians)
Mike Bolsinger, SP (Trade From Diamondbacks)
Juan Nicasio, SP (Trade from Rockies)
Brandon McCarthy, SP (Free Agent from Yankees)
Joe Wieland, SP (Trade from Padres)
Brett Anderson, SP (Free Agent from Rockies)
Sergio Santos, SP (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Brandon Beachy, SP (Free Agent from Braves)
Dustin McGowan, SP (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Erik Bedard, SP (Free Agent from Rays)
Joel Peralta,RP (Trade From Rays)
Chris Hatcher, RP (Trade from Marlins)
Ryan Buchter, RP (Free Agent from Braves)
Dustin Richardson, RP (Free Agent from Angels)
David Huff, RP (Free Agent from Yankees)
Jeremy Horst, RP (Free Agent from Phillies)
B.J. Rosenberg, RP (Free Agent from Phillies)
David Aardsma, RP (Free Agent from Cardinals)
Ben Rowen RP (Free Agent from Rangers)

Who Left?: 
Carlos Triunfel, SS (Free Agent to Giants)
Hanley Ramirez, SS (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Dee Gordon, SS (Trade to Marlins)
Drew Butera, C (Trade to Angels)
Miguel Rojas, IF (Trade to Dodogers)
Clint Robinson, 1B (Free Agent to Nationals)
Tim Federowicz, C (Trade to Padres)
Johnny Monell, C (Free Agent to Mets)
J.C. Boscan, C (Free Agent to Royals)
Alex Liddi, IF (Free Agent to Royals)
Chone Figgins, IF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Jamie Romak, OF (Free Agent to Diamondbacks)
Matt Kemp, OF (Trade to Padres)
Roger Bernadina, OF (Free Agent to Mets)
Mike Baxter, OF (Free Agent to Cubs)
Josh Beckett, SP (Retired)
Dan Haren, SP (Trade to Marlins)
Jamey Wright, SP (Free Agent to Rangers)
Paul Maholm, SP (Free Agent to Reds)
Chad Billingsley, SP (Free Agent to Phillies)
Jose Dominguez, RP (Trade to Rays)
Bruce Billings, RP (Free Agent to Nationals)
Justin Germano, RP (Free Agent to Mariners)
Jhan Marinez, RP (Free Agent to Rays)
Roberto Hernandez, RP (Free Agent to Astros)
Chris Perez, RP (Free Agent to Brewers)
Scott Elbert, RP (Free Agent to Padres)
Brian Wilson, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Steven Fife,RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Kevin Correia, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Winter Headlines: 
With no Kemp, Hanley or Gordon have the Dodgers just gotten old and slow?
What to Expect?:
As much as I hate to say it, Dodgers fans should expect a step back. The top three pitchers of Kershaw/Greinke/Ryu are still very strong but who is the vocal leader of this team?  Without Kemp to lead the team who will step up and get in the guys faces when it is needed?  Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw are great but neither give the impression of a fiery leader.  Jimmy Rollins was that guy in Philadelphia but that was an environment where he was the veteran of the organization and had the organizational reputation of the cornerstone of the franchise.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
As much as people love to hate the Dodgers because of the perceived "buying a pennant" attitude, the Dodgers have not won since Kirk Gibson shocked Eckersley in 1988.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Dodgers Fans Want?:
This team has an odd dynamic.  In losing Dee Gordon, Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez they have lost a big part of their identity.  They will need someone to step up and take the place of Kemp as the vocal leader.  Add to that the question of closer as Jansen is already dealing with injuries.   Although Dodgers fans are expecting a top of the division team they could be in for a sucker punch to the gut.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Jimmy Rollins is a Hall of Fame Shortstop an is without question the best Shortstop the Phillies ever had.  He was the leader of one of the most successful stretches in the team's history and will go down in history as one of the two greatest Phillies of all time.  Yet, at this point in his career he is on the down side.  You can expect him to be a fierce competitor and possibly even an All Star representative but don't expect him to be an MVP candidate.
Expect Great Things From:
This is a tough one to pick.  I could go with Adrian Gonzalez or Howie Kendrick or even Puig.  But of course the top pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, will be the star of this team.  Even with all the offensive power, you can count on Kershaw to carry this team on his miracle arm.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Andre Ethier had tremendous potential when he came up to the Dodgers.  He was good looking.  Likable.  He arrived when the Dodgers were bringing up their young crop of talent.  For whatever reason he has not been able to reach his potential under Mattingly.  His name has constantly come up in trade rumors (even back to the deal that brought Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford.  With Kemp being shuffled off to San Diego, you would think that Ethier would get the start in center field but the Dodgers picked up Chris Heisey in the off season and are expecting Joc Pederson to start in Center field.  Ethier may start to get the hint that his days in LA are numbered.
Prediction:2ndin NL West (1st National League Wild Card)

San Diego Padres

Who's New:  
Clint Barmes, IF (Free Agent from Pirates)
Tim Federowicz, C (Trade from Dodgers)
Wil Middlebrooks, 3B (Trade from Red Sox)
Brett Wallace, IF (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Wil Nieves, C (Free Agent from Phillies)
Ramiro Pena, IF (Free Agent from Braves)
Derrick Norris, C (Trade from Athletics)
Justin Upton, OF (Trade from Braves)
Matt Kemp, OF (Trade from  Dodgers)
Wil Myers, OF (Trade from Rays)
Brandon Morrow, SP (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Joe Weiland, SP (Trade to Dodgers)
Brandon Maurer, SP (Trade from Mariners)
James Shields, SP (Free Agent fro Royals)
Shawn Kelley, RP (Trade from Yankees)
Zack Segovia, RP (Free Agent from Rangers)
Scott Elbert, RP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Daniel McCutcheon, RP ( Free Agent from White Sox)
Marcos Mateo, RP  (Free Agent from Cubs)
Jose Valverde, RP (Free Agent from  Mets)
Who Left:
Chris Nelson, 3B (Free Agent to Phillies)
Adam Moore, C (Free Agent to Indians)
Yasmani Grandal, C (Trade to Dodgers)
Rene Rivera, C (Trade to Rays)
Ryan Hannigan, C (Trade to Red Sox)
Jace Peterson, IF (Trade to Braves)
Everth Cabrera, SS (Free Agent to Orioles)\
Tyler Greene, SS (Free Agent to Padres)
Brooks Conrad, 2B (Unisigned Free Agent)
Jeff Francouer, OF (Free Agent to Phillies)
Alex Castellanos, OF (Free Agent to Mets)
Seth Smith, OF (Trade to Mariners)
Jesse Hahn, SP (Trade to Athletics)
Eric Stults, SP (Free Agent to Braves)
Donn Roach, RP (Waiver Claim by Cubs)
Tim Stauffer, RP (Free Agent to Twins)
JOhnny Barbato, RP (Trade to Yankees)
Blaine Boyer, RP (Free Agent to Twins)
Troy Patton, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Hector Ambiz, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
What to Expect?:
The Padres were active this offseason.  Extremely active and added plenty of big names, taking one of the biggest from a division rival.   Padres fans should expect this team to compete but a World Series is too high of a goal.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Padres Fans Want?:
It is true the Padres added some very big names this offseason but if you look at where they were added fans may pause.  Matt Kemp (OF), Wil Meyers (OF), Justin Upton (OF).  That's great but the team already had expensive free agent Carlos Quentin, young and amazingly talented Cameron Maybin, Max Venable and Abraham Almonte in a a crowded  outfield.  So the outfield is strong.  Can any of them play third base or turn a double play?
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
James Shields earned his nickname "Big Game James" by winning in big situations for Tampa Bay and Kansas City.  Coming off the Royals' magical post season run, every team wanted Shields.  You can expect Shields to be a leader on this staff and to pitch with everything he has but expect results more like his first year in Kansas City than the results last year.
Expect Great Things From:
Matt Kemp is a 5-tool player.  Any success the Dodgers had over the last 10 years was directly tied to Kemp.  Unfortunately, quite a few of the disappointments were linked to him too.  He has had an up and down career as far as the public perception of his hustle, leadership and attitude.  He won't be chasing a triple crown like he did in 2011 but he will be a leader on this team.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Josh Johnson was once expected to be an ace in Miami and even when Mark Buerhle was brought on board the Marlins' sinking ship, Johnson some still considered the top guy.  A poor relationship with Ozzie Guillien led to his departure from Miami to Toronto for a failed season.  Injuries slowed him last year and will delay his participation this year.  Johnson may not have many opportunities left to regain his form.
Prediction: 3rd place in NL West. Second Wild Card

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Who's New: 
Matt Pagnozzi, C (Free Agent from Brewers)
Gerald Laird, C (Free Agent from Braves)
Nick Punto, IF (Free Agent from Athletics)
Nick Buss, OF (Free Agent from A's)
Jamie Romak, OF (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Yasmany Tomas, OF( Free Agent)
Danny Worth, IF (Free Agent from Tigers)
Jeremy Hellickson, SP (Trade from Rays)
Blake Bevan, SP (Free Agent from Mariners)
Robbie Ray, SP (Trade from Tigers)
Allan Webster, SP (Trade from Red Sox)
Ruby De La Rosa, SP (Trade from Red Sox)
Justin Marks, RP (Free Agent from Rangers)
Julio DePaula, RP (Free agent from Orioles)
J.C. Ramirez, RP (Free Agent from Indians)
Henry Alberto Rodriguez, RP (Free Agent from White Sox)
Who Left:  
Argenis Diaz, SS (Free Agent to Twins)
Didi Gregorious, SS (Trade to Yankees)
Miguel Monero C (Trade to Cubs)
Bobby Wilson, C (Free Agent to Rays)
Ronny Cedeno, IF (Free Agent to Giants)
Andy Marte, 3B (Unsigned Free Agent)
Xavier Paul, OF (Free Agent to Phillies)
Nolan Reimold, OF (Free Agent to Orioles)
Mike Bolsinger, SP (Trade to Dodgers)
Wade Miley, SP (Trade to Red Sox)
Clayton Richard, SP (Free Agent to Pirates)
Joe Paterson, RP (Free Agent to Royals)
Will Harris, RP (Waiver Claim by Astros)
Zeke Spruill, RPP (Trade to Red Sox)
Eury De La Rosa, RP (Trade to Athletics)
Jess Todd, RP (Free Agent to Red Sox)
J.J. Putz, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Lucas Harrell, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
What to Expect?:
Expectations coming into last season were gigantic.  The team had competed with the Dodgers in 2013 and had added Mark Trumbo. The results from the start were a disaster.  So after a successful season followed by a disaster where should expectations lie?  Considering Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo are both out until midseason and they are working under a young an inexperienced manager, expectations should be low.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Diamondback Fans Want?:
The talent level on this team is low.  They have some truly All Star capable players in Yasmany Tomas, Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo but there are a lot of holes on this team starting with the pitching.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
With Tanaka in New York, Tony Abreu in Chicago and Puig in Los Angeles, the international market has given us some players who made immediate impacts in the league.  Diamondback fans are hoping Yasmany Tomas will have the same impact.  He will be a great player in this league but don't expect him to spark a playoff run in Arizona.
Expect Great Things From:
Paul Goldschmidt is now a two time All-Star.  A Gold Glove winner.  A Silver Slugger.  An MVP runner up. He has a ton of talent.  In fact, when all is said and done, he may be one of the best players the Diamondbacks organization ever produced.  Enjoy seeing him in an Arizona uniform for as long as possible.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Bronson Arroyo was a big free agent signing last year but it did not go well for him.  Injuries limited his time and results on the mound and he will begin the year out of action.  He has had a very successful career, winning a World Series with the Red Sox and helping the Reds return to a contending teams in the last decade.  Unfortunately, father time may have caught up with him.
Prediction: 4th in NL West

Colorado Rockies:
Who's New:  
Audry Perez, RP (Free Agent from Cardinals)
Daniel Descalso, 2B (Free Agent from Cardinals)
Omar Quintanila, SS (Free Agent from Mets)
Josh Vitters, IF (Free Agent fromCubs)
Nick Hundley, C (Free Agent from Orioles)
Roger Bernadina, OF (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Aaron Laffey, SP (Free Agent from Nationals)
John Lannan, SP  (Free Agent from Mets)
Kyle Kendrick, SP (Free Agent from Phillies)
David Hale, SP (Trade From Braves)
Justin Miller, RP (Free Agent from Tigers)
Brett Marsahll, RP (Free Agent from Reds)
Jose Ortega, RP (Free Agent from Tigers)
Jorge Rondon, RP (Waiver Claim from Cardinals)
Jairo Diaz, RP (Trade from Angels)
John Axford, RP (Free Agent from Brewers)
Buddy Boshers, RP (Free Agent From Angels)
Gus Schlosser, RP (Free Agent from Braves)

Who Left:  
Josh Rutledge, IF (Trade to Angels)
Michael Cuddyer, OF (Free Agent to Mets)
Jason Pridie, OF (Free Agent to Athetics)
Franklin Morales, OF (Free Agent to Royals)
Juan Nicasio, SP (Trade to Dodgers)
Pedro Hernandez, SP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Brett Anderson, SP (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Nick Massett, SP (Free Agent to Marlins)
Rob Scahill, RP (Trade to Pirates)
Matt Belisle, RP (Free Agent to Cardinals)
Wilton Lopez, RP (Free Agent to Blue  Jays)
Greg Burke, RP (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Chris Martin, RP (Trade to Yankees)
Josh Roenicke, RP (Free Agent to Brewers)
Winter Headlines:  
Tulo to the Mets?  Not yet.
What to Expect?:
Keep expectations low.  Terribly low.  This is not a good team and the problem is there is not much hope for the immediate future.  This team will likely fight with Philadelphia, Atlanta and Arizona for the bottom spot.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
There is talent on this team.  Tulowitzki, Cargo and Charlie Blackmon are among the top of that list. Unfortunately for those three there is little else around them.  If you like rooting for the Cinderella Story, this is where you would find it.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Rockies Fans Want?:
If we're being honest it won't. There is not enough talent on this team to compete with San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Charlie Blackmon was one of the stand out performers for the Rockies last year.  He is a potential All Star but with the state of the Rockies that also makes him a potential All Star for another team.
Expect Great Things From:
Troy Tulowitzki is probably this franchise's greatest player in their short history and only Todd Helton would make it close.  It would be silly for this team to trade him when they held on to Helton so long.  Tulo should retire as Mr. Rockies.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Carlos Gonzales had a great year in 2010 but his production since then has not matched the expectations.  His potent bat could make him trade bait and he may be gone by midseason.
Prediction:5th in NL West

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set at the end of February.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the AL East Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season. 

Since moving to the three division format, NL Central players have led the NL in RBI 7 times.  What players from the Central have led the NL in RBI?
Answer to Last Week's Question:
Adam Wainwright led the league in wins in both 2009 and 2013.  In 2006 six pitchers tied for the lead in wins with 16.  Among those were Aaron Harang of the Reds and Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs.  2004 was the last time a pitcher from the division led the league by themselves.  In that year Roy Oswalt of the Astros won 20 games.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 National League Central Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the National League East Preview and check back next week for the National League West Preview

St. Louis Cardinals
Who's New:  
Dean Anna, IF (Free Agent from Pirates)
Mark Reynolds, 1B (Free Agent from Brewers)
Jason Heyward, OF (Trade from Braves)
Carlos Villanueva, P (Free Agent from Cubs)
Miguel Socolovich, RP (Free Agent from Mets)
Matt Belisle, RP (Free Agent from Rockies)
Who Left?: 
Audry Perez, C (Free Agent to Rockies)
Daniel Descalso, 2B (Free Agent to Rockies)
A.J. Pierszynski, C (Free Agent to Braves)
Mark Ellis, 2B (Unsigned Free Agent)
Shane Robinson, OF (Free Agent to Twins)
Jermaine Curtis, OF (Free Agent to Reds)
Jorge Rondon, P (Waiver Claim by Rockies)
Justin Masterson, P (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Eric Fonataro, RP (Free Agent to Nationals)
Pat Neshek, RP (Free Agent to Astros)
Jason Motte, RP (Free Agent to Cubs)
David Aardsma, RP (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Winter Headlines:  
Despite several key losses, Cardinals remain clear favorite in Central.
What to Expect?:
The Cardinals organization seems to have this game figured out.  Their minor league system continues to produce key players and they make smart trades and signings.  They don't always have big names but they know how to build a team that gets the most out of their pieces.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
This Cardinals run of success is something special.  This run started in 2000 when the Cardinals finished 1st.  Since then the team has only missed the playoffs three times.  Four times they have reached the NLCS only to come up short. Twice they have reached the World Series and lost and twice they have won it all.  For an organization boasting a history with Frankie Frisch, Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Johnny Mize, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith (among a million others) it is amazing to say that this may be one of the best times of their history.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Cardinals Fans Want?:
The Cardinals are clearly the favorite in this division but pitching depth, something they have used to their advantage in other years, may be a bit thin this year.  Wainwright is spectacular every year and Lance Lynn has started his career strong but there is a significant drop off after the top 2.  John Lackey's age should be a cause for concern and the rest of the rotation is unproven.  It would seem they have some questions about the rotation and pitching depth themselves based on the fact that they traded for Lackey and Masterson at the trade deadline last year.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
John Lackey has had a very good career but age and injuries have caught up to him.  Although he was 11-7 with Boston when he was traded to St.Louis his ERA was high and he only went 3-3 in St. Louis.  Lackey is still a strong pitcher but his best days are behind him.
Expect Great Things From:
Jason Heyward is one of the most talented and hard working players in the game, although his last few years in Atlanta were not up to his normal production levels.  Part of that can be traced to a horrific at bat in 2013 where he was hit in the face with a pitch that shattered both sides of his jaw but that does not account for all of the problems.  A new start in St.Louis will be just what he needs.  Expect Heyward to regain his All Star form.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Peter Bourjos had huge potential and huge expectations when he came to the majors in Anaheim.  An outfield of Bourjos-Trout-Hunter was supposed to be a winning combination for the Angels but a lack of production led to Bourjos being sent to St.Louis in exchange for David Freese.  Bourjos has now fallen to a bench role.
Prediction: 1st in NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Who's New: 
Francisco Cervelli, C (Trade from Yankees)
Jake Elmore, SS (Free Agent from Reds)
Steve Lombardozzi, 2B (Trade from Orioles)
Corey Hart, OF (Free Agent from Mariners)
A.J. Burnett, SP (Free Agent from Phillies)
Clayton Richard, SP (Free Agent from Diamondbacks)
Chris Volstad, SP (Free Agent from Angels)
Charlie Leesman, SP (Free Agent from White Sox)
Brad Lincoln, RP (Free Agent from Phillies)
Blake Wood, RP (Free Agent from Royals)
Rob Scahill, RP (Trade from Rockies)
Josh Stinson, RP (Free Agent from Orioles)
Josh Lindbaum, RP (Waiver Claim from Athletics)
Antonio Bastardo, RP (Trade from Phillies)
Radhames Liz, RP (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Arquimedes Caminaro, RP (Free Agent from Marlins)
Who Left:
Russell Martin, C (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Chase D'Arnaud, SS (Free Agent to Phillies)
Dean Anna, IF (Free Agent to Cardinals)
Ike Davis, IF (Trade to Athletics)
Clint Barmes, IF (Free Agent to Padres)
Thomas Field, IF (Free Agent to Rangers)
Chris McGuiness, 1B (Free Agent to Phillies)
Omir Santos, C (Free Agent to Nationals)
Michael Martinez, IF (Free Agent to Indians)
Jake Elmore, 1B (Free agent to Rays)
Gaby Sanchez, 1B (Unsigned Free Agent)
Edinson Volquez, SP (Free Agent to Royals)
Adam Wilk, SP (Free Agent from Angels)
Wandy Rodriguez, SP (Free Agent to Braves)
Justin Wilson, RP (Trade to Yankees)
Ernesto Frieri, RP (Free Agent to Rays)
Chaz Roe, RP (Free Agent to Orioles)
Preston Guillemet, P (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Jeanmar Gomez, RP (Free Agent to Phillies)
John Axford, RP (Free Agent to Rockies)
Vin Mazaro, RP (Free Agent to   Marlins)
Rafael Perez, RP (Free Agent to Mariners)
Winter Headlines: 
Who's the ace?
What to Expect?:
Pirates fans have been happy with the team's improvement over the last 5 years, however, the team may take a big step back this season.  There is no clear ace on the team and the loss of Russell Martin to lead the staff could cause a big drop off in a very competitive division.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Pirates have built this team fom the ground up.  The key pieces of this team have all come through the minor league system.  In an offseason where we have seen Atlanta and Oakland dismantle competitive teams and scatter their pieces all over the league it would be nice to see a team that has grown together, win together.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Pirates Fans Want?:
Pitching.  The Pirates starting rotation is a big question for this team.  They somehow got by last year with Edinson Volquez and Gerrit Cole but Volquez is gone and Cole is probably not a true ace, at least not yet.  They resigned Burnett but the magic Burnett carried with him a few years ago seems to be gone.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Francisco Cervelli is a decent Catcher.  He is not an All Star and he is not Russell Martin.  Martin had a way of controlling the game behind the plate and getting the pitchers to follow his lead.  Cervelli does not have that reputation.
Expect Great Things From:
Andrew McCutcheon is one of the best players in this league.  If you are trying to show a non fan why this game is so great show them McCutcheon.  He is a special player and watching him play with passion is a great experience.
Is This His Last Chance?:
A.J. Burnett has come back for a second tour of the Steel City.  In his first trip through the city he was the ace of the staff and led the team to their first playoff appearance since 1992.  At 8-18 with an ERA of 4.59 with the Phillies last year, Burnett will need some magic to help the Pirates back to the post season.
Prediction: 2nd in NL Central

Chicago Cubs
Who's New: 
Tom LaStella, IF (Trade from Braves)
Jonathan Herrera, IF (Free Agent from Red Sox)
Miguel Montero, C (Trade from Diamondbacks)
David Ross, C (Free Agent from Red Sox)
Taylor Teagarden, C (Free Agent from Mets)
Adron Chambers, OF (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Chris Denorfia, OF (Free Agent from Mariners)
Mike Baxter, OF (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Dexter Fowler,OF (Trade from Astros)
Jason Hammel, SP (Free Agent from Athletics)
John Lester, SP (Free Agent from Athletics)
Donn Roach, RP (Waiver Claim from Padres)
Jason Motte, RP (Free Agent from Cardinals)
Mike Kickham, RP (Waiver Claim from Giants)
Francisley Bueno, RP (Free Agent from Royals)
Jorge DeLeon, RP (Free Agent from Athletics)
German Gonzalez, RP (Waiver Claim from Rangers)
Who Left: 
 Eli Whiteside, C (Free Agent to Braves)
Luis Valbuena, 3B (Trade to Astros)
John Baker, C (Free Agent to Mariners)
Lars Anderson, 1B (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Josh Vitters, IF (Free Agent to Rockies)
Justin Ruggiano, OF (Trade to Mariners)
Ryan Kalish, OF (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Arodys Vizcaino, RP (Traded to Braves)
Kyuji Fujikawa, RP (Free Agent to Rangers)
Wesley Wright, RP (Free Agent to Orioles)
Alberto Cabrera, RP (Free Agent to Tigers)
Dan Straily, RP (Trade to Astros)
Carlos Villanueva, RP (Free Agent to Cardinals)
Marcos Mateo, RP (Free Agent to Padres)
Winter Headlines:
The ripening products of the Farm System.
What to Expect?:
Cubs fans should be excited.  Theo Epstein has this team moving in the right direction and they should be right in the thick of this competitive division.  The Farm System is producing high expectations and the arrival of Joe Maddon from the Rays has led to big excitement in the Windy City.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
For the obvious reason.  It has been over 100 years since the team won a World Series.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Cubs Fans Want?:
That all depends on your expectations.  If you are expecting an immediate World Series with the arrival of Dexter Fowler, John Lester and Maddon you will be disappointed.  If you are expecting an improved, competitive team laying the ground work for a climb to the post season then you should be satisfied.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
John Lester is a very good pitcher and was one of the top free agents in a very good class of free agent pitchers.  You can expect him to be the ace of this staff and to eat a lot of innings but don't expect a Cy Young from him just yet.
Expect Great Things From:
Joe Maddon is a terrific manager and his style is made for a situation like the Cubs.  In Tampa he was able to work with a small budget and develop great talent.  When that talent hit free agency he was able to find great replacements and continue his winning ways.  For a young team like the Cubs it could be a match made in heaven.
Is This His Last Chance?:
This team is too stocked with young talent to be considered anyone's last chance.  The young kids on this team added with Maddon's winning attitude could make this team fun to watch.
Prediction: 3rd place in NL Central

Cincinnati Reds:
Who's New: 
Josh Satin, 1B (Free Agent from Mets)
Ivan de Jesus, IF (Free Agent from Red Sox)
Kyle Skipworth, C (Free Agent from Marlins)
Irving Falu, IF (Free Agent from Brewers)
Eugenio Suarez, SS (Trade from Reds)
Brennan Boesch, OF (Free Agent from Angels)
Marlon Byrd, OF (Trade from Phillies)
Jermaine Curtis, OF (Free Agent from Cardinals)
Chris Dominguez, OF (Free Agent from Giants)
Anthony DeScalfani, SP (Trade from Marlins)
Paul Maholm, SP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Donovan Hand, SP (Free Agent from Brewers)
Jose Cisneros, RP (Free Agent from Astros)
Nate Adcock, RP (Free Agent fom Rangers)
Wilmer Font, RP (Free Agent from Rangers)
Jose De La Torre, RP (Free Agent from Brewers)
Burke Badenhop, RP (Free Agent from Red Sox)
Kevin Gregg, RP (Free agent from Marlins)

Who Left: 
Jake Elmore, IF (Free Agent to Pirates)
Ramon Santiago, IF (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Jack Hanahan, IF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Chris Heisey, OF (Trade to Dodgers)
Ryan Ludwick, OF (Free Agent to Rangers)
Brett Marshall (Free Agent to Rockies)
Mat Latos, SP (Trade to Marlins)
Alfredo Simon, SP (Trade to Tigers)
Carlos Marmol, SP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Curtis Partch, RP (Free Agent to Giants)
Logan Ondrusek, RP (Free Agent to Japan)
Ryan Rowland Smith (Unsigned Free Agent)
Trevor Bell, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Winter Headlines: 
With age and injuries, questions arise about how long the window will stay open.
What to Expect?:
It is a loaded question and it depends on a few things.  First, how healthy are Phillips, Votto and Cueto?  If they can stay healthy this team can be a serious force in the National League and could challenge for first in a very close division.  If they have the same issues they have suffered through the last two years the team may struggle.  Second, how good is Marlon Byrd?  We know he can be good because we saw it after the trade deadline in Pittsburgh a few years ago.  We also know he can be just average as we saw with the Mets and Phillies.  Finally, how important was Mat Latos?  Not having the 1-2 punch of Cueto-Latos could be a big problem.  Homer Bailey is a very good number 2 starter but he missed the las few weeks of last season and culd miss part of the firs month.  After Cueto-Bailey there is a significant drop off in quality.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
In 2012 this team was one game away from advancing to the National League Championship Series.  That year they had overcome some inuries and a late season stroke suffered by Dusty Baker to finish the season with the best record in baseball.  They followed that up with a loss to Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round and replaced Baker.  This group of Cueto-Phillips-Votto-Bruce have worked hard to help give this franchise a rebirth.  It would be nice to see this group hoist a trophy together.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Reds Fans Want?:
We already talked about the question of the health and loss of Latos but more than that, the other teams in this division are strong and the Cubs have improved.  With 5 teams about equally matched someone has to finish last and it seems as though the Cubs are determined not to be the doormat anymore.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Joey Votto had his worst season as a professional in 2014.  Injuries cut his playing time to just 62 games and his average dropped to .255.  As the injuries start to catch up to him Votto will need to display his leadership and build his clubhouse presence but his numbers on the field may fall a bit.
Expect Great Things From:
At 20-9 and 2.25 Johnny Cueto had his best year as a pro and if it were not for a historic year from Clayton Kershaw he would have won the Cy Young.  Cueto is the clear ace of this staff and any success the Reds hope for will start with Cueto.
Prediction:4th in NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers
Who's New: 
Adam Lind, 1B (Trade from Blue Jays)
Luis Sardinas, IF (Trade from Rangers)
Bryan Peterson, OF (Free Agent from Rangers)

John Ely, RP (Free Agent from Red Sox)
Neal Cotts, RP (Free Agent from Rangers)
Chris LeRoux, RP (Free Agent from Yankees)
Chris Perez, RP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Corey Knebel, RP (Trade from Rangers
Josh Roenicke, RP (Free Agent from Rockies)
David Herndon, RP (Free Agent from Phillies)
Who Left:  
Matt Pagnozzi, C (Free Agent to Diamondbacks)
Irving Falu, IF (Free Agent to Reds)
Mark Reynolds, 1B (Free Agent to Cardinals)
Eugenio Velez, IF (Free Agent to Rays)
Jeff Bianchi, IF (Free Agent to Red Sox)
Rickie Weeks, IF (Free Agent to Mariners)
Lyle Overbay, 1B (Unassigned Free Agent)
Caleb Gindl, OF (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Zach Duke, SP (Free Agent to White Sox)
Marco Estrada, SP (Trade to Blue Jays)
Tom Gorzelanny, SP (Free Agent to Tigers)
Donovan Hand, SP (Free Agent to Reds)
Yovanny Gallardo, SP (Trade to Rangers)
Billy Buckner, SP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Jose De la Torres, RP (Free Agent to Reds)
Francisco Rodriguez, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Winter Headlines: 
In the fight or time to rebuild?
What to Expect?:
With this division being as competitive as ever it is hard to say where the Brewers will finish.  Last year they appeared to be on the decline heading into the Spring but amazing years by Segura, Gomez and Lucroy kept them in the race until the end of the year.  With improvement by the Cubs but fall off from the Reds and Pirates the Brewers could still stay in the fight.  In reality though, the lack of pitching depth, especially in the bullpen, will likely lead to a last place finish.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The general perception of the organization (to non-fans and non-students of the game) is that of a losing organization.  In reality this is a proud organization with Hall of Famers, MVP's and a usually competitive history.  For a die-hard fan base it would be nice to see Milwaukee get the respect it deserves.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Brewers Fans Want?:
This division is very close from top to bottom and the Cubs are no longer the door mat of the league.  The Brewers still have Garza and Lohse at the top of the rotation but they lost Gallardo and Estrada in the offseason.  The bullpen is shaky and Lucroy suffered a serious injury that will keep him out for some time.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Matt Garza has been a big name in baseball since he emerged with the Rays in their playoff years.  He was a big name in a trade to the Cubs.  That was followed by a big hype over a trade to the Rangers in 2012. He then became a big name free agent in 2014.  The results since he had his big year in 2010 have not been great.  In fact, despite his reputation as a top level ace, Garza is only 75-75 over his career.  That included 4-5 in his stint with the Rangers and 8-8 in his year with the Brewers.  Garza is of course a very good pitcher and will help the Brewers in any chance they have at the post season but he is not an ace.
Expect Great Things From:
Jean Segura came to the Brewers in the Zack Grienke trade with the Angels a few years ago and it was a steal for the Brewers.  Jean Segura is one of the best hitting short stops in the NL and is superb defensively.  Expect an All Star year from him.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Johnathon Broxton was a dominant closer for the Dodgers in their 2008-2009 runs to the playoffs but a series changing double to Jimmy Rollins in 2009 and a complete collapse in 2010 led to his departure from Los Angeles.  He has bounced around the league with varying levels of success.  The Brewers are asking him to regain his 2008 form but it may be too late.
Prediction:5th in NL Central

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set in the middle of February.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the NL West Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season.

Adam Wainwright led the National League in wins in both 2013 and 2009.  Before Wainwright, when was the last time a National League Central Pitcher led the league in wins?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Since the league moved to the three division format, a National league East player has led the league in Home Runs four times (including Stanton in 2014.  The first to do so was Jim Thome (47) with Philadelphia in 2003.  Not until Ryan Howard (58) in 2006 did anyone else from the east lead the league.  Howard did it again in 2008 with 48. Between 2008 and 2014 no one from the East led the league in Home Runs.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 National League East Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check back next week for the National League Central Preview. 

Washington Nationals:
Who's New: 
Clint Robinson, 1B (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Ian Stewart, SS (Free Agent from Angels)
Steven LeRud, C (Free Agent from Braves)
Omir Santos, C (Free Agent from Pirates)
Mike Carp, UT  (Free Agent from Rangers)
Dan Butler, C (Trade from Red Sox)
Yunel Escobar, IF (Trade from Athletics)
Dan Uggla, 2B (Free Agent from Giants)

Eric Fonataro, SP (Waiver Claim from Cardinals)
Max Scherzer, SP (Free Agent from Tigers)
Bruce Billings, RP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Heath Bell, RP (Free Agent from Yankees)
Evan Meek, RP (Free Agent from Orioles)
Casey Janssen, RP (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Who Left: 
Adam LaRoche, 1B (Free Agent to White Sox)
Asdrubel Cabrera, 2B (Free Agent to Rays)
Gregg Dobbs, UT (Unsigned Free Agent)
Stephen Souza, OF (Trade to Rays)
Nate Schierholtz, OF (Free Agent to Rangers)
Scott Hairston, OF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Aaron Laffey, SP (Free Agent to Rockies)
Ross Ohlendorf, SP (Free Agent to Nationals)
Ross Detwiler, RP (Trade to Rangers)
Tyler Clippard, RP (Trade to Athletics)
Ryan Mattheus, RP (Free Agent to Angels)
Rafael Soriano, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)

Winter Headlines:
Scherzer adds to what is now considered the best rotation in baseball.
Loss of LaRoche could mean shift in power.
What to Expect?:
Nationals fans should expect the best.  Defensively they are strong up the middle with Ramos, Desmond, Espinoza and Span.  The pitching rotation of Strasburg, Scherzer,, Zimmerman, Gonzalez and Fister is potentially as good as we have seen in a long time.  With the Braves and Phillies seemingly unloading everyone the Nats should have an easy road to October. What they do when they get there is the question.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Baseball in the nation's capital has not seen a World Series since 1933.  Granted a large part of that time period they didn't have a team.  Still, the Nats have built this group from the ground up and have made (mostly) smart baseball decisions.  It would be nice to see it pay off and see the Fall Classic return to the land of Walter Johnson and Joe Cronin.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Nationals Fans Want?:
Getting to the playoffs is one thing, the Nats have done that.  Advancing is another.  With the amount of money spent, the team seems to be putting greater emphasis on the results.  Although the Braves and Phillies are rebuilding for the future, the Marlins and Mets are in a position to surprise a lot of people.  The Nationals need to stay healthy and keep a healthy eye on the rear view mirror.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
If we include his minor league stops, Jayson Werth is entering his 18th professional season.  That type of wear and tear can slow a player down over the long run, especially someone like Werth who plays all out all the time. You can expect Werth to be a team leader, near the top of the team roster in many important catgories and a major part of any success that the team has.  Just don't expect an MVP award.
Expect Great Things From:
I say this every year but Stephen Strasburg has the potential to be a truly great pitcher.  Strasburg had a season below his normal standards and was technically the 4th best starter on the team.  With some added protection in Scherzer, expect Strasburg to rise to the competition and have a Cy Young caliber season.
Prediction: 1st Place in NL East

Miami Marlins

Who's New:
Reid Brigniac, SS (Free Agent from Philies
Dee Gordon, SS (Trade from Dodgers)
Miguel Rojas, 1B (Trade from Dodgers)
Martin Prado, IF (Trade from Yankees)
Don Kelly, IF (Free Agent from Tigers)
Cole Gillespie, OF (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Michael Morse, OF (Free Agent from Giants)
Scott Sizemore, OF (Free Agent from Yankees)
Tyler Colvin, OF (Free Agent from Giants)
Ichiro Suzuki, OF (Free Agent from Yankees)
David Adams, OF (Free Agent from Orioles)
Dan Haren, SP (Trade from Dodgers)
Mat Latos, SP (Trade from Reds)
Andre Rienzo, SP (Trade from White Sox)
David Phelps, SP (Trade from Yankees)
Ryan Reid, RP (Free Agent from Mets)
Aaron Crow, RP (Trade from Royals)
Preston Claiborne, RP (Waiver Claim from Yankees)
Nick Masset, RP (Free Agent from Rockies)
Vin Mazarro, RP (Free Agent from Pirates)
Who Left:
Kyle Skipworth, C (Free Agent to Reds)
Juan Diaz, SS (Free Agent to White Sox)
Enrique Hernandez, IF (Trade to Dodgers)
Garrett Jones, 1B (Trade to Yankees)
Casey McGehee, 3B (Free Agent to Giants)
Rafael Furcal, SS (Unsigned Free Agent)
Brian Bogusevic, OF (Free Agent to Phillies)
Joe Benson, OF (Free Agent to Braves)
Reed Johnson, OF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Brian Flynn, SP (Trade to Royals)
Andrew Heaney, SP (Trade to Angels)
Anthony DeSclafani, SP (Trade to Reds)
Kevin Slowey, SP (Free Agent to Phillies)
Nathan Eovaldi, SP (Trade to Yankees)
Brad Penny, SP (Free Agent to White Sox)
Alex Sanabia, RP (Free Agent to Angels)
Chris Hatcher, RP (Trade to Dodgers)
Dan Jennings, RP (Trade to White Sox)
Arquimedes Caminero, RP (Trade to Pirates)
Kevin Gregg, RP (Free Agent to Reds)

Winter Headlines:
Marlins spear some key players, look to swim up stream.
What to Expect?:
I am a little shocked at myself for thinking this, and I will probably look back at this and laugh at myself, but this could be a competitive team.  At the end of last year the Marlins actually had a playoff chance heading into the last few weeks.  And that was without reigning Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez.  The Marlins have added some major pieces this off sesaon, key among them Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Mat Latos.  If things go right the Marlins could play into October.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
This could be an exciting time for the Marlins.  This time last year the Marlins were generally considered the bottom of the barrel but these young players have shown that they can surprise some people, despite the perceived lack of support from ownership.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Marlins Fans Want?:
There are two big pieces to this team: Stanton and Fernandez.  Unfortunatley both are big questions.  Stanton was injured in a frightening at bat near the end of the year and Fernandez missed most of last season.  Stanton is one of the best players in the game but it is yet to be seen how he will come back and Fernandez is still recovering from last years injury.  The team hopes to have him back by the beginning of June.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Dee Gordon had an All Star season last year and appeared to finally be fulfilling his potential in Los Angeles.  That was with a lineup stacked from top to bottom to help get him in to score.  The Marlins have a good young team but they do not have the same bats that the Dodgers had last year to help.  Expect Gordon to have a high on base percentage and be near the top of the league in steals but he may not be the same Dee Gordon from last year's Dodgers.
Expect Great Things From:
Ichiro Suzuki signed late this offseason with the Marlins after having extensive talks with the Orioles and Mariners.  Suzuki will likely be a bench player and will have to fight for playing time in a crowded young outfield.  Still, Ichiro is one of the best players this game has seen in a very very long time,
Is This His Last Chance?:
Dan Haren has been a good pitcher in the league for a long time and until 2012 he was relatively injury free. But a back injury in 2012 has led to a decline in production for Haren that saw him bounce from Anaheim to Washington to Los Angeles with little consistency.  The Dodgers traded Haren to the Marlins in the offseason and he has made it clear he prefers to pitch on the west coast.  There have been few teams jumping at the opportunity and if he doesn't pitch well in his time in Miami, he may not get a second chance.
Prediction: 2d Place in NL East

New York Mets

Who's New:  
Johnny Monell, C (Free Agent from Dodgers)

Michael Cuddyer, OF (Free Agent from Rockies)
Alex Castellanos (Free Agent from Padres)
John Mayberry, Jr (Free Agent from Blue Jays)

Duane Below, RP (Free Agent from Tigers)
Who Left:  
Josh Satin, 1B (Free Agent to Reds)
Miguel Socolovich, RP (Free Agent to Cardinals)
Taylor Teagarden, C (Free Agent to Cubs)
Omar Quintanilla, SS (Free Agent to Rockies)
Andrew Brown, OF (Waiver Claim by A's)
Eric Young, Jr, OF (Free Agent to Braves)
Bobby Abreu, OF (Unsigned Free Agent)
John Lannan, SP (Free Agent to Marlins)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Miguel Socolovich, RP (Free Agent to Cardinals)
Ryan Reid, RP (Free Agent to Marlins)
Jose Valverde, RP (Free Agent to Padres)
Germen Gonzalez, RP (Trade to Yankees)
Dana Eveland, RP (Free  Agent to Red Sox)

Winter Headlines: 
Turning the Mess around?  With young group Mets could be moving in the right direction.
What to Expect?:
This team is probably a few pieces and a few years away from competing but they certainly appear to be heading in the right direction.  The key seems to be health.  David Wright, Travis D'Arnaud and Matt Harvey were all hit by the injury bug last year.  They will need to stay healthy to get a real idea of what they are capable of for the future.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Mets are potentially building something special.  They have a lot of strong young players on the roster and a lot of young talent in the system.  With the Braves and Phillies trading everyone away the Mets may be the new dominant force in the East.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Mets Fans Want?:
There are still a lot of missing pieces here.  Shortstop is not settled.  The bullpen is a huge question mark.  The health of Matt Harvey and David Wright are a concern.  This season is an in between season for the Mets.  A playoff run would be nice but is more realistically a year or two in the future.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Fans in Minnesota knew for a long time that Michael Cuddyer had talent and he finally showed it in his last two years in Colorado.  Cuddyer could be a strong influence on the team and help them reach the post season over the next few years but don't expect him to be an MVP.
Expect Great Things From:
The starting rotation is potentially a nice mix of young arms.  Between Jacob deGrom, Dylan Gee, Zach Wheeler and Matt Harvey there is a world of potential on this staff.  Waiting in the wings is Noah Syndergaard who will start the season in Las Vegas.  If the Mets somehow manage to stay in the race (which is not unthinkable) Syndergaard could see action at the big league level.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Bartolo Colon won 15 games last year and threw 200 innings for the Mets.  He also lost 13 and had an ERA over 4.00  Colon is now in his 40's and although he is clearly the veteran leadership on this pitching staff, how long will his aging body hold out?
Prediction: 3rd Place in NL East.


Atlanta Braves
Who's New?: 
Eli Whiteside, C (Free Agent from Cubs)
Pedro Ciraico, IF (Free Agent from Royals)
Alberto Calaspo, 3B (Free Agent from Athletics)
Jace Peterson, IF (Trade from Padres)
A.J. Pierzynski, C(Free Agent from Cardinals)
Emilio Bonifacio, SS (Free Agent from White Sox)
Kelly Johnson, IF (Free Agent from Orioles)
John Buck, C (Free Agent from Angels)
Zoilo Almonte, OF (Free Agent from Yankees)
Nick Markakis,OF (Free Agent from Orioles)
Joe Benson, OF (Free Agent from Marlins)
Eury Perez, OF (Waiver Claim from Mets)
Jonny Gomes, OF (Free Agent from Athletics)
Eric Young, Jr, OF (Free Agent from Mets)
Shelby Miller, SP (Trade from Cardinals)
Chieng Ming Wang, SP (Free Agent from White Sox)
Greg Smith, SP (Free Agent from Phillies)
Wandy Rodriguez, SP (Free Agent from Pirates)
Eric Stults, SP (Free Agent from Padres)
Arodys Vizcaino, RP (Trade from Cubs)
Donnie Veal, RP (Free agent from White Sox)
Jim Johnson, RP (Free agent from Tigers)
Michael Kohn, RP (Free Agent from Rays)
Michael Fotynewicz, RP (Trade from Houston)
Josh Outman, RP (Free Agent from Yankees)
Jason Grilli, RP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Josh Outman, RP (Free Agen from Yankees)
Ryan Butcher, RP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
David Carpenter, RP (Free Agent from Angels)
Jose Veras, RP (Free Agent from Astros)
Who Left?:  
Tommy LaStella, 2B (Trade to Cubs)
Emilio Bonifacio, IF (Free Agent to White Sox)
Evan Gattis, C (Trade to Astros)
Steven LeRud, C (Free Agent to Nationals)
Ramiro Pena, IF (Free Agent to Padres)
Ryan Doumit, C (Unsigned Free Agent)
Gerald Laird, C (Free Agent to Diamondbacks)
Donnie Murphy, IF (Unsigned Free Agent)
Justin Upton, OF (Trade to Padres)
Jason Heyward, OF (Trade to Cardinals)
Ervin Santana, SP (Free Agent from Twins)
Gavin Floyd, SP (Free Agent to Indians)
Kris Medlen, SP (Free Agent to Royals)
Aaron Harang, SP (Free Agent to Phillies)
Mitch Atkins, SP (Free Agent to Rangers)
David Hale, SP (Trade to Rockies)
Zach Stewart, SP (Free Agent to Angels)
Brandon Beachy, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Atahualpo Severino, RP (Free Agent to Angels)
Anthony Varvaro, RP (Trade to Red Sox)
Shreve Chasen, RP (Trade to Yankees)
David Carpenter, RP (Trade to Yankees)
Mitch Atkins, RP (Free Agent to Rangers)
Ryan Butcher, RP (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Pedro Beato, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Luis Perez, RP (Free Agent to Blue Jays)
Gus Schlosser, RP (Trade to Rockies)
Winter Headlines: 
Braves unload in offseason, get little back in return,
Outfield experiment is abandoned but is this a better alternative?
What to Expect?:
If you're a Braves fan have low expectations.  The Braves were a competitive team over the last 5 years, even putting some scares in the Phillies, Nationals, Giants and Dodgers.  That run seems to be coming to an end.  The experiment of the Hayward-Upton-Upton outfield has been marked down as a failure and the plethora of young arms have now been abandoned.  What is left is an outfield with one Upton, a lifetime Oriole with health questions and a prospect.  The infield is strong at the corners, average at Shortstop and an aging journeyman at second.  Their closer is one of the best in the game but he may have few opportunities to show it.  Expect the next few years to be a down turn.  But on the positive side:  they're in the same division as the Phillies.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Braves are almost certainly headed into a rebuilding phase.  Most of the young talent they counted on to spark a rebirth of the 1990s glory days have been shipped away.  The talent that is left could turn out to be in for a long, painful stretch/
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Braves Fans Want?:
It almost certainly won't turn out in favor of Braves fans.  The team is clearly in rebuilding mode and will have to hope for help from the minor league system.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Nick Markakis was a fan favorite in Baltimore for years and many Orioles fans were saddened by the fact that the team's rise to playoff contender coincided with injury filled years for Nick.  Markakis' best years are behind him (although, as an Orioles fan and fan of Markakis, I hope he proves me wrong).  You can expect Markakis to give 100% effort all the time and to be a positive influence in the clubhouse but don't expect him to lead the Braves into contention or to replace Heyward.
Expect Great Things From:
I probably said the same thing last year but Chris Johnson is a very under rated player at third base.  He has a hard job in replacing Chipper Jones but he quietly is a key piece in this team.  With few big names left expect Johnson to represent the Braves in the All Star Game
Is This His Last Chance?:
A.J. Pierszynski has a reputation for causing clubhouse problems.  It helps to explain why someone with that much talent has moved from the Twins to the Giants to the White Sox to the Rangers to the Red Sox to the Cardinals to the Braves.  To be fair though, he did contribute greatly to the success of the Giants and White Sox in his stays there so the reputation may be a bit exaggerated.  It isn't the first time that a guy's negative clubhouse presence has been overblown in Boston.  Regardless, that reputation has followed A.J. and if he does not correct it in Atlanta there may be little demand left for an aging grumpy Catcher.
Prediction: 4th place in NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

Who's New: 
Chase D'Arnaud, SS (Free agent from Pirates)
Chris Nelson, 3B (Free Agent from Padres)
John Hester, C (Free Agent from Angels)
Cord Phelps, 2B (Free Agent from Orioles)
Chris McGuinness, 1B (Free Agent from Pirates)
Tyler Greene, IF (Free Agent from Padres)
Xavier Paul, OF (Free Agent from Diamondbacks)
Jeff Francoeur, OF (Free Agent from Padres)
Darren Mastroianni, OF (Free Agent from Blue Jays)
Brian Bogusevic, OF (Free Agent from Marlins)
Jordan Danks, OF (Waiver Claim from White Sox)
Kevin Slowey, SP (Free Agent form Marlins)
Jeanmar Gomez, SP (Free Agent from Pirates)
Aaron Harang, SP (Free Agent from Braves)
Chad Billingsley, SP (Free Agent from Dodgers)
Anthony Vasquez, SP (Free Agent from Orioles)
Paul Clemens, RP (Free Agent from Houston)
Who Left: 
Reid Brigniac, SS (Free Agent to Marlins)
Jimmy Rollins, SS (Trade to Dodgers)
Wil Nieves, C (Free Agent to Padres)
Marlon Byrd, OF (Trade to Reds)
Tony Gwynn, Jr (Unsigned Free Agent)
A.J. Burnett, SP (Free Agent to Pirates)
Kyle Kendrick, SP (Free Agent to Rockies)
Greg Smith, SP (Free Agent to Braves)
Brad Lincoln, RP (Free Agent to Pirates)
Antonio Bastardo, RP (Trade to Pirates)
Jeff Manship, RP (Free Agent to Indians)
B.J. Rosenberg, RP (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Jeremy Horst, RP (Free Agent to Dodgers)
Mike Adams, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Shawn Camp, RP (Unsigned Free Agent)
Winter Headlines:  
The end of an era.  Rollins gone. Howard, Papelbon, Hamels and Lee to follow?
What to Expect?:
Expect the worst.  This team still has talent but they are in full rebuilding mode.  It seems that Utley is the only untouchable.  For the last 15 years the Phillies have given their fans some great moments but for the next few years it could be a return to the days of Steve Jeltz, Von Hayes and Shane Rawley.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Phillies have never had a period of success this sustained before.  There was the nice run from 1976 through 1983 but this is something different.  This was special.  After an era of poor play this gave birth to a whole new generation of Phillies fans.  While I grew up with stories of the exploits of Schmidt, Carlton, Rose, Luzinski and Bowa, today's generation has grown up with the exploits of Rollins, Howard, Hamels, Utley and Ruiz.  Here's hoping that they can give the young generation one last run at something special.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Phillies Fans Want?:
To be fair, who's left?  From the championship teams of 2008 and 2009 only Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Hamels and Lee remain.  Of those 5 three have been mentioned in serious trade talks.  Phillies fans can only hope that the trades being made can bring positive results in return.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Chad Billingsley is a tremendously talented pitcher.  When he first arrived in the big leagues, knowing that Kershaw was coming right behind him,the Dodogers thought they had a new Koufax and Drysdale combination.  Unfortunately Billingsley's arm gave out and he has not had a full season since 2011. Billingsley is a classy guy and a good clubhouse presence, something this team could use with the loss of Rollins.  His effectiveness will be defined by the health of his arm.
Expect Great Things From:
Chase Utley is a Hall of Fame player.  Period.  He has shown over the years that he deserves to be mentioned with the greats of this organization like Klein, Ashburn and Schmidt.  Injuries have kept his amazing numbers lower than they could be but when all is said and done he is one of the most entertaining players to watch.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Ruben Amaro, Jr took over the Phillies at the end of the 2008 season and has benefitted from the team that Pat Gillick put together.  That is not to say that Amaro has not done a good job.  He certainly orchestrated the deals that brought Halladay, Polanco, Lee and Ibanez to town.  Each of those deals helped to extend the Phillies' run of success.  However, as the Phillies head into a clear rebuilding mode, will Amaro be able to see the results of his dealings over the last two years.
Prediction:5th place in NL East

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set in the middle of February.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the NL Central Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season.

Giancarlo Stanton led the National League in Home Runs last year with 37.  Who was the last player from the NL East to lead the league in Home Runs?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Ozzie Guillen spent a short time in a Tampa Bay Devil Ray uniform, as did everyone in last week's article.  Of those featured in last week's article only Manny Ramirez played for Ozzie.  Ramirez played in 24 games for the White Sox in 2010.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Didn't Know He Played For: Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay had a rough start to their history.  They had plenty of young prospects but very little money and for quite some time it seemed as though they were the training grounds for the rest of the Major Leagues.  Often they would develop a great young player, know that they could not afford to keep him and then move him along to somewhere else.  Of course, over the last several years the team has developed their own identity thanks to players like David Price, Evan Longoria, Justin Upton, Wil Meyers, James Shields and Carl Crawford.  Here are some of the people who you may not have realized wore a Tampa Bay uniform.

Wade Boggs

Boggs was an easy choice for the Hall of Fame when he retired.  He is easily remembered as a member of the Red Sox playoff teams in  the 1980s and for the joy he showed in finally winning the World Series as a Yankee.  Did you remember that Boggs played his final two seasons in Tampa Bay, even achieving his  3000th hit with Tampa?  It may seem like an odd choice for a Hall of Fame player on his way out of the league to sign with a non- contending team but Boggs was born and raised in the Tampa area so his time there put a nice cyclical end to his career.

Wilson Alvarez

The White Sox began to build a strong young team around Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura in the early 1990's.  One of the big pieces of that young group was Wilson Alvarez.  As a rookie in 1991 Alvarez threw a no-hitter and when the White Sox made the playoffs in 1993 for the first time since 1983, Alvarez was essential to their success.  By 1997, with the Sox looking to rebuild again, Alvarez was traded to the Giants for the pennant race.  A free agent at the end of the year, Alvarez signed with the newly formed Devil Rays.  He would play parts of 3 seasons for Tampa Bay and finish with a 17-26 record for the team.

Jerome Walton
Expectations were high for Jerome Walton when he came to the Cubs.  In his first year in the league he formed a 1-2 rookie punch with Dwight Smith and joined future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson for arguably the best outfield that year (Pittsburgh and Oakland were likely better but the Cubs for one year were close.) Walton won Rookie of the Year but injuries slowed his development.  As he moved from one team to another Walton always seemed to land on a winner.  He played in the post season with the 1995 Reds, 1996 Braves and 1997 Orioles.  Following his stint with the Orioles, Walton signed as a free agent and was one of the original 1998 Devil Rays.  He played in only 12 games for Tampa before retiring.

Jose Canseco

For a brief period Jose Canseco was recognized as the best player on the planet.  Unfortunately,  outside forces got in the way of Canseco's on field performance.  He was bannished from Oakland and sent to Texas followed by a stop in Boston.  After one successful season (production wise) in Toronto, Canseco signed with Tampa Bay for 1999.  Jose displayed his usual power with 34 Home Runs in the season and another 15 through late July in 2000. Following the trade deadline in 2000 Tampa waived Jose who was claimed by the Yankees and would be a part of his final World Series team when the Yankees beat the Mets.

Julio Franco
Julio Franco became a bit of an ageless wonder in the early 2000's.  Making his Major League debut with the Phillies in 1982 before being traded to Cleveland for Von Hayes, Franco became an All Star and fan favorite in Cleveland and Texas.  Following the 1997 season it appeared that his Major League career was over when he signed with Japan's Chiba Lotte at the age of 39.  In 1999 the Rays took a chance on the former batting champion and on September 22 Franco finally saw action.  He appeared in an 8-5 loss to Anaheim as a Pinch Hitter.  The former batting wizard struck out in his only at bat. By the following off season he was gone.  Franco would emerge in a few years with the Braves and Mets and would amaze everyone with his ability to hit.  He did not retire until he was 48 years old.

Ozzie Guillen
Known in his playing days as a spectacular defensive short stop for the White Sox, younger fans will know Ozzie as the outspoken manager of the White Sox and Marlins.  Following a very brief stop in Baltimore Guillen contributed to the Braves 1998 and 1999 playoff teams.  Just a few days into the 2000 season Guillen was released by the Braves and signed by Tampa Bay.  He would play in 63 games for the Devil Rays before retiring at the end of the year.

Dwight Gooden

Few pitchers had the potential, talent and determination that Dwight Gooden had.  He was an unhittable pitcher with the Mets before almost losing his career.  He was reborn with the Yankees in the mid to late 1990's but a young Yankee pitching staff caught up with him.  In 2000 Gooden signed with the Astros who sold Gooden's contract to the Devil Rays after one game.  Gooden was one of the first of the 1980s stars to come out of the Tampa Bay area (the city has a long tradition of sending talent to the majors including Al Lopez, Tony LaRussa and Lou Piniella along with many others) and had a brief home coming with the Devil Rays.  After just 8 appearances Gooden was released in May of 2000 and was quickly signed by the Yankees.  He helped the 2000 Yankees win the World Series before retiring.

Hideo Nomo

Hideo Nomo was a pitching sensation when he joined the Dodgers in 1995.  As his effectiveness decreased he moved on to several other teams including Boston where he pitched a no-hitter.  He would return to the Dodgers for three moderately successful seasons.  After the 2004 season the Dodgers again released the pitcher and Nomo signed with Tampa Bay.  During the 2005 season, his only season with the Devil Rays, Nomo pitched in 100 innings and finished with a 5-8 record.

Pat Burrell

Pat Burrell was the cornerstone of the Phillies youth movement of the late 1990's to early 2000's.  As the 2008 Phillies fought to their World Series title, Burrell was sometimes  replaced for defensive purposes and was considered too slow on the base paths.  A free agent after the 2008 season, the Phillies allowed Burrell to move on and signed Raul Ibanez as his replacement.  The next thing most of the country knew, Burrell was helping the misfit Giants hoist the World Series trophy in 2010.  But there was a stop in between.  After helping the Phillies beat the Rays in the 2008 World Series, Burell signed as a free agent with the team he just beat.  His  numbers in Tampa Bay were well below his normal numbers in Philadelphia and his playing time diminished.  In May of 2010 Burrell was released by Tampa Bay and signed with the Giants where he made a big impact in the San Francisco Bay.

Johnny Damon
Johnny Damon became a national name as a self proclaimed "idiot" with the Red Sox. Known for his clutch hitting as well as his beard and long hair, he shocked the Red Sox by signing with the enemy Yankees, cutting his hair and shaving for the 2006 season.  After winning the 2009 World Series with the Yankees, Damon tried to bring a 2010 World Series to Detroit but that failed.  After his stop with the Tigers Damon signed with Tampa Bay, although it was clear his skills were slowing.  In 150 games Damon had one of his lowest batting averages (.261) of his career, although his power and RBI numbers were up compared to his year in Detroit,  After one year in Tampa Bay Damon moved on.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career before being suspended for steroids in 2009.  His reputation changed over night.  Near the end of the 2010 season, a disaster for the Dodgers, Manny was released and signed with the White Sox for the pennant chase.  He was released again at the end of the year and was a free agent.  With his skills on the decline and the distraction of Manny being Manny having ceased to be fun, few people were throwing money his way.  Manny signed with the Rays but after 5 games Manny was 1-17 with no runs, 1 RBI and 5 strikeouts.  Then news broke that Manny had failed another drug test. Instead of serving the necessary 100 game suspension Manny retired.

Hideki Matsui

Known to Yankee fans as "Godzilla"  Matsui won the 2009 World Series MVP in leading the Yankees past the Phillies.  Matsui signed with the Angels for 2010 where he had a season comparable to his 2009 Yankees numbers.  He moved on to Oakland for a slower season in 2011.  The ride ended for Godzilla when he played the 2012 season with Tampa Bay.  In 34 games with Tampa Bay he hit only .147. On 8/1/2012 Matsui was released.

Ozzie Guillen was a successful manager for the White Sox and (somewhat) for the Marlins.  How many players featured in today's article played on a team while Ozzie was their manager?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
On 6/3/1997, with the 22nd overall pick of the first round, the Baltimore Orioles selected Jayson Werth.  Werth never played in the Major Leagues in an Orioles uniform.  He was traded on 12/11/2000 to the Jays for Pitcher John Bale.  Bale had pitched in a total of 3 games for the Jays in 1999 and 2000.  In 5 2/3 innings he had allowed 7 hits, 10 runs (9 earned), 2 Home Runs and had an ERA of 14.29.