Bet on the Marlins (20/1), Giants (25/1), and/or Reds (40/1) to win the NL Pennant. They're sleeper picks, and those odds are great.
Bet on the Rangers (35/1), Mariners(50/1), and/or Royals (50/1). Seattle and KC have great pitching upside, and Texas has a great offense, and the pitching isn't great, but could keep them in contention. Great odds again.
On the World Series Level those teams have great odds again Marlins (40/1), Giants (50/1), Reds (80/1), Mariners (100/1), Rangers (70/1), and Royals (100/1).
For Over/Under for Regular Season Wins, here are my almost sure thing picks:
Boston- 94.5 (under)
Philadelphia- 87.5 (under)
Chicago White Sox- 79.5 (over)
Florida- 76.5 (over)
San Francisco-80.5 (over)
Trade Melky Cabrera. Gardner won the starting job, and Ajax is on the Horizon. I love Melky, but he's the odd man out.
Trade Damaso Marte. He's expensive ($4mm), and there are plenty of other options for the 'pen that can be just as good. Mark Melancon and Brian Bruney should be the primary setup men by the end of the season, and Veras, Albadejo and Coke can hold up the other roles in the pen. Marte's an established reliever and could bring in someone valuable.
Trade Edwar Ramirez. Edwar's one of the less talented guys trying to win a bullpen spot, even though he is a great strikeout pitcher (63 K's in 55 innings last year). He's not a bad pitcher, but I'd rather have the other guys in the pen. Edwar could bring back a Grade B prospect or be part of a package deal for something bigger.
Trade Juan Miranda. We've got Teixeira at first for 8 years. We have Nick Swisher as the backup. Then we have Jesus Montero who could outgrow the catcher's spot and need to play 1st. Basically, there's no spot for Miranda, so let's deal him for something that will give us more value.
Trade Angel Berroa. Ransom won the 3rd baseman slot, and will be relegated to backup duty when A-Rod's back. Also, Ramiro Pena is a younger, faster, more athletic alternative to Berroa as a backup infielder.
Trade Dan Giese. Giese is one of my favorite players, but Aceves should be the long reliever. Ian Kennedy could be a long reliever too. And if Hughes takes Andy Pettitte's rotation spot at some point we could see Pettitte in the pen. Giese is older than Kennedy and Aceves, and less experienced than Andy, so he's just the odd guy out here.
Possible Off-Season Targets
After this year the Yanks have Nady($6.55mm), Molina ($2mm), Pettitte ($5.5mm), Damon ($13mm) and Matsui ($13mm) coming off the books. Hughes will most likely take over for Pettitte, so we won't have to find a replacement for him. Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine could end up taking over the back-up catcher role from Molina, so a new back-up won't be a huge concern. Matsui is a DH, which is a role I'd rather use to rest other players. Damon and Nady will need to be replaced in the outfield though. Right now, using only internal options, our 2010 outfield would be Brett Gardner in Left, Ajax in Center, and Swisher in Right. That's not necessarily bad, depending on how Swish and Gardner do this year, and how much Ajax improves, but the outfield could be better. The Yanks will most likely make a run at Matt Holliday, who will most likely get 6+ years and around $20mm a year. I've watched Holliday his whole career, and he's a phenomenal player, but buying him when he's 30 means he'll only get worse over the next 6 years. He'd end up like Jason Giambi, he'd still be productive for most of the contract, but would be way overpaid. If Tampa doesn't pick up Carl Crawford's $10mm option he would be my first choice because he has speed, power, average, and is two years younger than Holliday. He also has experience in the AL East...not the NL West. Rick Ankiel has some power and could be another option, he'd be less expensive and wouldn't require as many years. Randy Winn could be a one year option too. On the trade front we could look at anyone on this list: Jeremy Hermida, Josh Willingham, Andre Ethier, Brad Hawpe, Delwyn Young, Carlos Gonzalez, Seth Smith, and Jeff Baker. Those guys will all come at different prices, but could all put up acceptable stats. Also, we could see Jeter move to the outfield as has been rumored for a while. Holliday and Crawford will definitely be Type A free agents, and Ankiel and Winn could very well be type A's as well, so remember that they would cost us a first round draft pick if they're offered arbitration by their former clubs.
The only other free agent who I'd really like on the team is Chone Figgins. He's fast and can play almost anywhere on the field. He's one guy who I would have no problem putting in if A-Rod, Jeter, or Cano got injured. And if Ajax, Gardner, Swisher, or a new outfielder got injured we could put him in for them as well. He's just a great guy to have on your team because he so versatile and athletic. He's a much better player than someone like Cody Ransom.
We shouldn't have to sign a starter becuase we'll have CC, AJ, Wang, Joba, Hughes, and Kennedy, with Brackman, Betances, McAllister and others on the horizon. We shouldn't sign a reliever because we'll have Mo for his final season and then a great young relief corps that should be almost identical to what we have this year. We have first, second, third, and short covered. Jorge might not be able to play every day behind the plate, but most likely he will be. Then we also have top prospects Austin Romine and Jesus Montero, so don't expect a big free agent catcher signing. So it will really just come down to the outfield and possibly the utilityman roll next off-season.
Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Put 'em in the comments.
C Jorge Posada
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Robinson Cano
3B Cody Ransom
SS Derek Jeter
LF Johnny Damon
CF Brett Gardner
RF Nick Swisher
DH Hideki Matsui
C Jose Molina
RF Xavier Nady
IF Ramiro Pena
CF Melky Cabrera
1P CC Sabathia
2P Chien Ming Wang
3P AJ Burnett
4P Andy Pettitte
5P Joba Chamberlain
CL Mariano Rivera
SU Brian Bruney
SU Damaso Marte
MRP Jose Veras
MRP Jon Albadejo
LHS Phil Coke
LR Alfredo Aceves
And then you have A-Rod on the DL.
I think we should get rid of Edwar Ramirez, because unlike Girardi I think we need a long reliever, especially with such an injury prone rotation, thus Aceves needs a spot. Albadejo and Veras are better than Edwar in my opinion. I also am not opposed to trading Damaso Marte when we bring up Mark Melancon. I'm sure we could turn Marte and Ramirez into some position prospects or a better stopgap at 3rd(I'm not sold on Ransom, even though I really want him to do well).
Also, Melky, Juan Miranda, X-Man, Ransom and Angel Berroa seem expendable to me. I'd rather give Ramiro Pena some experience at the big league level or get someone reliable like Mark Grudzielanek than play Ransom and Berroa.
I am a big X-Man fan though(well a bigger X-man fan than I am a Ransom fan)...so I had a kinda crazy idea. Nady played 18 errorless innings at 3rd in 05, maybe he could play 3rd now...But, he hasn't been training there so don't think that would actually happen, just a funny thought.
A lot of people, including Girardi, want Nady to start in Right because of his career year last year. But his line in New York (not Pittsburgh) last year was .268/.320/.474. Swish's line for the year was .219/.332/.410. I think batting average is sooo overrated still, and I usually just ignore it and look at OBP instead. Swish's OBP beat Nady's by 12 points. And when his average comes back up to near his career avg (.244) it'll raise his OBP as well. Swish only hit one home run less than Nady did all year, and he just seems like a better bet for a good year than Nady is, because Nady's coming off a career year, and thus should regress, whereas Swish is coming off a career worst year, and thus should improve. Add in that Swish is two years younger and signed past this year, and it just makes sense to make him an integral part of the team. I like Nady, but if we can trade him for something more valuable let's do it.
Phil Hughes will find his way into the rotation by July somehow. Someone will get injured, I'm sure. Andy Pettitte is clearly the weak link in the rotation right now, and I wonder if Girardi would just let Hughes take over for him if there weren't an injury. Pettitte's such a part of Yankee tradition that it is hard to imagine the Yanks trading him (unless its to Houston) or relegating him to 'pen duty. But, if Hughes is good enough we could see that happening.
Also, if Gardner can't handle the starting center field job and Austin Jackson starts off hot in Triple A we could see AJax making his debut sometime around the all-star break.
Public Feud with team captain...check
Choking in the playoffs...check
Cheating on his wife...check
A-Rod apparently used some hookers and dated Madan Kristin Davis.
What a dick. Can he just leave already?
1. Keep the first two rounds during Spring Training.
2. Move the Semis to the All-Star Break. And...have the All-Star game, the Home Run Derby, and the Semi's in a foreign country. It's not every year, so moving the festivities out of the States doesn't ruin the tradition. I say the festivities should be on a rotation...Japan, Europe, Latin/Central America, USA. Games in Europe may bring in a new fan base, games in Japan engage the greatest MLB fanbase outside of the US, games in Latin America will give a great show for a location where many MLB players come from, and games in America will just have our regular American fans.
3. Make the finals a best of 3, and play them the week after the World Series. Everyone misses baseball after the World Series, so let there be a final competition to give everyone their baseball fix. The Finals should be on a rotation as well. Latin/Central America, USA, Europe, Japan. Then there's always two different locations for the Semis and the Finals.
On the non-WBC front...
MLB needs to keep looking for new sources of fans and players. I say that MLB should sponsor little leagues in other countries, and build baseball academies in different areas. I say we need to build two baseball academies in India (one North, one South), three in Europe (UK, Spain, Netherlands), five in Africa(South Africa, Ghana, the Congo, Egypt, and Morrocco), and one in Australia (Sydney). I know these all cost money, but if MLB can pay Bud Selig $18mm a year, then they can find money for these Academies.
Partner with the NFL and create an official organization called Athletes against Performance Enhancing Drugs (APED). This organization should have commercials and big advertisements against steroids (kind of like the Drug-Free commericals), but the ads should utilize real professional athletes (clean athletes) and have the MLB and NFL logos in each commercial. Football is becoming the most popular sport in America, and partnering with them would reach a greater number of fans. MLB needs to make a big public stand against steroids if they want to overcome this problem.
That's all for now, but I'll be back with more ideas.
Tim Dierkes was nice enough to answer a couple of questions for us. Here is the interview.Conor Cashel- If you were Brian Cashman, would you regret signing A-Rod to the 10 year deal, now that his use of PED's has come to light? Despite Brian Cashman saying otherwise, could you see a deal that would bring a 3B in to fill in for A-Rod? Do you think that Cody Ransom will work out as the backup?
Tim Dierkes- I would regret the contract, yes. Perhaps more so because of the hip condition than the admitted PED usage. I don't believe A-Rod has used PEDs in recent years, but that is only a guess. Regarding the contract, there is just so much that can go wrong in the course of ten years when you are paying top dollar. His defense and health may start to decline even if he does continue to hit. I could see a very minor deal for another third baseman...like a minor league deal for Mark Grudzielanek, something along those lines. I expect Ransom to be the team's worst regular when he's out there.
CC- What was the best free agent signing this offseason? Which organization came out as the "biggest winner" of the offseason?
TD- I liked a lot of the one-year deals - Randy Johnson, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, Orlando Hudson, Brad Penny. With the focus on winning in 2009, you have to give the Yankees the claim to the best offseason since they brought in three star-quality players.
CC- Which of the Yankee acquisitions (Swisher, Sabathia, Burnett, Teixeira) do you see having the biggest impact on the team in the short term? Long term?
TD- Short-term Sabathia, long-term Teixeira. Tex is more of a steady performer with less risk of injury, but Sabathia could burst onto the NY scene as a 7 win player in 2009 and lead a revamped rotation.
CC- There has been much discussion over who will play RF for the Yankees next season. If you are Joe Girardi, who is your everday RF? Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady? Do you go with a platoon?
TD- Platoon doesnt really make sense, as Swisher hit lefties pretty well before last year. I'd go with Swisher, Nady would get plenty of playing time as a quality fourth outfielder/bench bat.
CC- What major trade deadline deals could you see happening? Who could the Yankees potentially pick up at the deadline to ease their CF situation (if Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner don't work out)? Do you see Austin Jackson coming up at some point in the year if Gardner and Melky don't give the Yankees what they are looking for?
TD- It would not surprise me to see Roy Halladay dealt. Rick Ankiel, Erik Bedard, and Adrian Beltre are other possibilities. The Yanks could go after Ankiel or renew the Mike Cameron talks. Marlon Byrd could also make sense. I can see Jackson taking over at midseason with a respectable first half.
CC- With the weak economy, it has been suggested that some teams may be in full salary dump mode come midseason. Could you see this happening to any teams in particular? What kind of players would be traded both on the salary dump side and the salary pick-up side?
TD- I could see a team like the Tigers dumping salary en masse, with someone like Magglio Ordonez being a well-paid player but not an albatross. The Tigers also have many truly bad contracts. The Astros have Miguel Tejada (others would have to be willing to waive no-trade rights). The Blue Jays have Vernon Wells. The Rangers could try to move Kevin Millwood and/or Vicente Padilla.
CC- Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano are all coming off rough seasons, whether it be due to injury or just poor playing. Which of these players is most likely to return to their full potential? Who's return to potential/strength will have the biggest impact on the team's success?
TD- I see Cano as the most likely to bounce back, with an honorable mention to Swisher. The 2008 seasons of those two players seem more the product of bad luck than health. But Posada's potential bounce back will have the biggest impact because catcher is so hard to fill and if he has to DH there's nowhere to play Matsui.
CC-Last time we spoke to you, you predicted that the Yankees would finish with 92 wins, win the Wild Card , but lose to the Red Sox in the ALCS. Have your predictions changed over the last 3 months?
TD- That still seems like a reasonable outcome to me...I could see the Yanks winning even more regular season games maybe. I know this looks like a cop-out but I can see the Yanks, Red Sox, and Rays all winning more than 90 games and any playoff outcome involving those three would not surprise me.
CC- Just for fun, let's hear what you think the 3 biggest hot stove headlines will be in December 2009?
TD- 1. Matt Holliday's free agency
2. Even less free agent spending for non-star players
Here's an article at looking at prospects in the DSL.
Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects by the Numbers, and Top 100 Prospects.
This is just kindof filler, but really...who doesn't love propsect profiles?
It's nice to know that tickets at the New Cathedral are real affordable. You'll never have to pay more than $2,625 for a seat....
Everyone's favorite failure, Kei Igawa, is having a pretty strong spring training. As of today, he's got a 0.00 ERA through 9.2 innings, with 9 K's and 4 BB's. You have to wonder if he might actually be in the Bronx this year, or if he'll be traded...
Andruw Jones will decide whether or not to opt out of his contract next week. I don't see him coming to the Bronx, not with the spring Gardner's had.
Joba's hearing got pushed back another time. He'll be solving world hunger, curing AIDS, and solving the Palestine-Israel conflict, so he has to push the DUI hearing back.
Tex hit his 1st homer as a Yank. Remember that he always starts slow, so don't be upset if he doesn't hit many more until May or June.
Andy Pettitte has been helping Jorge Posada work on his arm strength. They've worked together for a long time, so Andy knows how Jorge should look behind the plate. They played with Trenton against Scranton, and both looked good.
The Melkman hasn't given up on winning the starting CF spot. I've always been a Melky fan (I hung my "Got Melky?" shirt on my wall in mourning when he was sent down to Triple A last year). However, I love Gardner's hustle and speed, and will to win. Whoever wins, Yankee fans should be happy.
Joba is a starter, don't question that. BUT, if Mariano were to get injured, he would move to the closer's role. But Mo isn't going to get injured. He'll be fine all year. Personally, I would just move Bruney, or Marte, or perhaps even future closer Melancon to the spot, because I think Joba needs consistent time in the rotation. But, I guess we have enough back-ups (Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves) to fill in the starter's role if Joba had to close.
China lost to Japan 4-0.
Taiwan lost to Korea, 9-0.
Then, China beat Taiwan 4-1, eliminating Taiwan.
Japan beat Korea 14-2, and they only played 7 innings.
The Netherlands pulled an upset over the Dominican team, 3-2. Basically a team who's best player is Sidney Ponson, beat a team that has Edinson Volquez, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Marmol, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Jose Reyes. Anything can happen in baseball.
As I am writing, the Americans are losing 2-1 to Canada in the fourth.
I say that Korea and Japan will come out of Pool A, Cuba and Mexico from Pool B, The US and Venezuela from Pool C, and the Netherlands and Puerto Rico from Pool D. Then Cuba and Japan from Pool 1, and the US and Venezuela from Pool 2. Then a Japan vs. the US final, with the US winning.
With the season not too far away, we thought it would be nice to preview the 5 best rotations in baseball.
The AL Champion Rays’ rotation can be described in one word, Beast. Last season, they boasted a team ERA (bullpen included) of 3.82, which is pretty remarkable. The only loss from their rotation this offseason was Edwin Jackson who gave them a solid 14 wins and 183.3 innings; this "hole" should be more than filled with the fantastic David Price. The rotation starts off with James Shields, who will be 27 this coming season.. Last season he pitched an impressive 215 innings, with a 3.56 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, and a 4:1 K:BB ratio. Interestingly enough, he pitched the same number of innings the year before, with a 3.85 ERA a ridiculous 1.107 WHIP, and a 5.11:1 K:BB ratio. This young guy has been consistently effective over the last couple of years, and should only continue to put up impressive stats this season. Scott Kazmir, still only 24, is another one of the great pitchers in the Rays’ rotation. He has had his fair share of injury troubles, but when healthy he is dominant. Last season, he had an ERA of 3.49, 166 Ks, a WHIP of 1.267, and threw 152.3 innings. He tends to walk a few more guys than he should. He has shown great potential when he has been healthy, leading the
Next up, is our own New York Yankees. The Yankees made some serious improvements to their rotation this season, adding the best lefty in baseball,CC Sabathia, and the 08 strikeout leader, AJ Burnett. In doing so, they made their rotation younger (Sabathia is 27, Burnett is 32) and more effective. They lost Mike Mussina, who at 38 was coming off of a stellar 20-win season. Their rotation is clearly formidable. CC Sabathia is the team’s ace signing on with a 7 year $161mm contract. His ’08 season was spectacular, as he carried the Brewers into the playoffs. He was quite the workhorse, throwing 253 innings between the Indians and the Brewers. He sported a cool 2.70 ERA, with an insane 1.65 ERA in his 17 games with the Brewers (7 of which were complete games). His 251 Ks, 4.25 K:BB, and 1.115 WHIP made me water at the mouth. Hopefully, his workload over the past couple years won't hurt him this year or in the future. Burnett, another big free agent signing, had a very solid season for the Jays in ‘08. He hurled 221.3 innings with a 4.07 ERA (a little bit higher than we’d like). He had 231 Ks and a WHIP of 1.342. He is obviously a huge injury risk, but hopefully he can stay healthy in his first year in pinstripes. Burnett’s biggest strength is his electric stuff, as he pitches for power as well as movement. He could be the ace on almost any other team, but instead he’ll take the role of the #2 in the
The Giants boast the 3rd best rotation in baseball. Their ace, Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, is dirty, unbelievable, and has already proved himself to be a superstar. The 24 year old had a 2.62 ERA, a 1.172 WHIP, 265 Ks (led league), in his Cy Young campaign. Not bad for a 24 year old. Matt Cain, their #2, had a 3.76 ERA, had 186 Ks, and a 1.364 WHIP. He is another guy that will give you a bunch of innings, with an average of 202 innings over the last 3 seasons. Future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, signed with San Fran this offseason, and will be 45 this year. Sure, he's old, but his stats were still impressive last season, with a 3.91 ERA, and 1.239 WHIP, and 173 Ks. His age could catch up with him though, and his constant back issues could pose a problem as well.. Barry Zito, who has done nothing but disappoint for the Giants, is the #4. He has struggled immensely in SF, posting a 5.15 ERA, 1.600 WHIP, and an abysmal 1.17 K:BB ratio last season. He was a fine pitcher across the bay in
The Chicago Cubs come in at #4. The Big Z (Carlos Zambrano), is their ace. He had a decent season last year with a WHIP of 1.293 and 3.91 ERA. His strikeout rates were down from previous seasons, as he only punched out 130 in ‘08. The highlight of his season was his impressive no-hitter. He has proven himself to be a force, and will certainly give the Cubbies lots of quality innings.He pitched over 200 innings each year from 03-07. His biggest flaw is his excessive number of walks. Ex-Yankee Ted Lilly is the #2. The lefty had an ERA of 4.09, 184 Ks, and a WHIP of 1.226. He had a bit of a down season, compared to his "usual stats", so it wouldn't be improbable to see a jump in his stats. Ryan Dempster, #3, had a great season for the Cubs last year. Until last season, he was used primarily as a reliever, but he showed that he can be a very successful starter. He threw 206.66 innings last year with an ERA of 2.96, a WHIP of 1.210, and 187 Ks. He signed a new four year deal with the Cubs this offseason. Typically, relievers-turned-starters have a tougher time their second year, as they fatigue earlier in the season.. Rich Harden, the #4, can be ridiculously dominant when healthy. He showed that last season with a 2.07 ERA and a filthy 1.061 WHIP while pitching for the A’s and Cubs. If he can stay healthy, a big IF, he will be a force in this tremendous
The Angels have the 5th best rotation in the league. Their #1, John Lackey, has shown dominancy for years and is entering his contract year. He had a 3..75 ERA, a 1.231 WHIP, and 3.25 K:BB last season. He was sidelined for a considerable amount of time with a strained tricep. Expect to see him continue to put up strong stats, and bring home some W’s. The youngErvin Santana (#2) had a breakout season for the Angels last year. His 3.49 ERA 214 Ks, and 1.119 WHIP impressed all of baseball. He has shown strengths before, so expect him to keep pitching well this season. #3 Joe Saunders had a great year in ‘08 with a 3.41 ERA, 1.212 WHIP, and a 17-7 record. We’ll see if Saunders can repeat what was the best season of his career so far. Jered Weaver had a less than stellar season for the Angels last year. At 25, he posted a 4.33 ERA, a 1.285 WHIP, and 2.8 K:BB ratio. Look for him to improve this year, now that he has some more big league experience. Rounding out their rotation should be Dustin Moseley who only started 10 games last season. He has great potential, and we’ll see if he can live up to it. This is clearly a talented rotation, but the Angels are relying heavily on repeat seasons from Santana and Saunders, and a bounce-back season for Weaver.
Boston Red Sox- The Sox have Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, John Smoltz, Clay Bucholz, and Brad Penny as viable candidates for the rotation. This could be a great rotation, but Dice-K is overrated,
Florida Marlins- A strong young core could turn heads, but without being “proven” you can’t be sure of how effective they will be.
What do you guys think? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
Our Lord The Savior Joba Chamberlain
AJ Burnett(I'm trying to change...)
Thoughts? Additions? Subtractions? Reasons? Questions? Let's hear em in the comments.
Great Picture at PeteAbe's blog. Here it is above. Wang is throwing souvenirs into the crowd, but look at Joba on the left. You have to love the glasses and the sweater. Classy JChamb, classy.
Some other things of note.
Derek Jeter is the Captain of team USA. In the words of Ricky Bobby, "Hey, it's me, America!" The USA team played the Yanks today. Winning 6-5. Roy Oswalt picked up the win, Phil Hughes got the loss, despite pitching well.
PeteAbe talks about Hughes' newer, tighter curveball. I hope we can get Hughes to the Bronx somehow this year. He'll almost definitely be the first call-up when someone gets injured, and even with a healthy rotation he could come up and displace Andy Pettitte by the end of the season.
A-Rod is coming out to my home state of Colorado tomorrow to have his hip examined in Vail.This could hold A-Rod out of the WBC. If anyone knows A-Rod, tell him he should find me when he leaves Vail and I'll take him out to a nice fancy meal. I'm still debating whether to get him a Juicy burger at Wendy's, or some Jamba Juice. Okay, bad joke, I know, but I couldn't help myself. In all honesty though, he should go to Elway's in Denver. Every superstar should be like John Elway, who's the subject of this touching story by Rick Reilly.
In other news, Brett Gardner is my boy. He's just the man. Through 10 spring at bats BGard has a batting average of .500, and OBP of .545, and is slugging 1.300. He's hit two solo homeruns (one on the first Yankee at bat of the year), hit two doubles, and stolen 2 bases. He's got 13 total bases already and I honestly can't help but cheer for this guy.
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: San Francisco Giants
NL Wildcard: New York Mets
I doubt many predictions have these four teams, but here's my reasoning.
The Marlins will win the East simply because they are the best team in the division. Do they have power, you ask? Yes. See Hanley Ramirez (33 HR), Dan Uggla (32 HR), Jorge Cantu (29 HR), Cody Ross (22 HR), and Jeremy Hermida (17 HR). Do they have speed? Yes. See Hanley Ramirez (35 SB), and Cameron Maybin (21 SB in double A). Do they have a starting rotation? Yes. See Ricky Nolasco (3.52 ERA, 186 K's), Josh Johnson (3.61 ERA), Chris Volstad (2.88 ERA), and Anibal Sanchez (5.57 ERA through to starts in 08, but a career 3.86 ERA). Do they have a bullpen? Yes. See Matt Lindstrom (3.14 ERA), Leo Nunez (2.98 ERA), Logan Kensing (4.23 ERA, but struck out 55 in 55.1 innings) and prospect Jose Ceda (2.08 ERA in 30.1 innings at the double A level last year. Add in the fact that the Marlins won't have to deal with aging players, and they seem like a clear choice for the Division Champs.
The Cubs will win the Central, because, well...how can they not? They have a rotation of Carlos Zambrano(3.91 ERA), Ted Lilly(4.09 ERA), Ryan Dempster(2.96 ERA), Rich Harden(2.07 ERA) and Sean Marshall(3.86 ERA). They also have Aaron Heilman as insurance. Not to mention, they could still possibly swing a trade for Padres' Ace Jake Peavy once ownership issues are settled on both sides. They have a ridiculous lineup with the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, and Ryan Theriot. If Milton Bradley stays healthy and performs like he did in 08, he could be another major threat in the lineup. They have some quality arms in the bullpen such as Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, and Jeff Samardzija. The Cubbies' closes competitor in 08, the Brewers, lost their primary ace (CC Sabathia) as well as their secondary ace (Ben Sheets) to free agency. The Reds have a great young core of talent, but too many dominoes have to fall into place for them to beat out the Cubs. The Astros have a fine offense, but have way too many question marks in the rotation. After Roy Oswalt, you can't be sure of anything from the other starters. The Cardinals could be good, since Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, and Todd Wellemeyer have all succeeded at the major league level, but their offense, particularly their infielders not named Albert Pujols, is incredibly weak. And the Pirates... I mean do you really expect them to do anything?
The NL West will be won by the team with the best pitching. Since the Rockies just lost their ace(Jeff Francis) for the year, the Padres have only two established starters, one of whom they may very well trade away, and the Dodgers have a very injury-prone rotation, I see the division title being fought for between the Giants and the DBacks.A San Francisco rotation of Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum(2.62 ERA), Matt Cain (3.76 ERA), future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson (3.91 ERA), former Cy Young winner Barry Zito (he's been terrible since arriving in San Fran, but a new year could mean new success...maybe), Noah Lowry (missed all of 08, but had a 3.92 ERA in 07), and youngster Jonathan Sanchez (showed promise until the all star break, before fading down the stretch) could be one of the best in the league. Arizona has Brandon Webb(3.30 ERA) and Dan Haren (3.33 ERA) leading their rotation. Then they trot out league average veterans Jon Garland(4.90) and Doug Davis(4.32 ERA) as their 3rd and fourth starters. In the 5th spot we could see top prospect Max Scherzer come in and make a big impact. Overall, it seems more likely that San Fran will have 3-5 successful starters than Arizona will, so I say San Fran will win the West
There are not teams in the Central or the West that are good enough to win the Wild Card, so I am almost certain it will come from the East. I don't think the Phillies can defend their title, not with the overrated Brett Myers (4.55 ERA), the 46 year old Jamie Moyer(3.71 ERA), and the mediocre Joe Blanton (4.69 ERA). Phillies slugger Ryan Howard has seen his batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, and walk total decline each of the past two years. Third baseman Pedro Feliz had a .302 OBP in 08. And Catcher Carlos Ruiz had a .320 OBP and a .300 SLG in 08. This isn't a playoff team. So the Wild Card comes down to the Mets and the Braves. Lets do a quick comparison.
Derek Lowe(3.24 ERA) Johan Santana(2.53 ERA)
Javier Vasquez (4.67 ERA) Mike Pelfrey (3.72 ERA)
Jair Jurrjens (3.68 ERA) Oliver Perez (4.22 ERA)
Kenshin Kawakami (Played in Japan) John Maine (4.18 ERA)
Both teams will have a fight for the 5th rotation spot. The Mets will let Livan Hernandez, Freddy Garcia, Tim Redding, and Jon Niese fight for the spot, while the Braves will let Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Tom Glavine hold down the spot until top prospect Tommy Hanson is ready to take over. The Mets have a stronger lineup with superstars Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado. The Braves have a nice core of young talent, with guys like Brian McCann, Yunel Escobar, and Kelly Johnson, complemented by veterans Chipper Jones and Garrett Anderson. Then the Mets have a bullpen with JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, as well as Duaner Sanchez and Pedro Feliciano. Meanwhile the Braves have Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano among others. The Mets seem to have the edge, and after two late season collapses they have everything to prove.