Sunday, April 5, 2009

2009 MLB Season Preview

Its baseball season again! Here is a complete divison by divison MLB preview that will surely make me look stupid by the end of the year.

AL East

1. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are the defending AL Champs. They won 97 games last season and have almost the same team returning in 09’. They should be even better after acquiring DH Pat Burrell, who will give this very young and complete team yet another weapon. It will be hard for the Rays to stay atop the AL East with the two money bags behind them, but this young team should only get better and I think they’ll be up to the challenge again in 2009.
Player to watch: B.J. Upton – Had 24 HRs in 2007 but only 9 in 2008 due to a shoulder injury. Look for the power to return this season. He also stole 44 bases in 09’.

2. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox come into the 2009 season with an absolutely stacked team. As usual, the Sox have an explosive offense led by reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, Jason Bay, Youk, and Big Papi. Most importantly, the Red Sox re-acquired catcher Josh Bard from the Padres…. He still can’t catch a knuckleball.
Player to watch: Jacoby Ellsbury – The young centerfielder from Oregon State stole 50 bases last season.
3. New York Yankees
The Yankees spent $441 million doll hairs this offseason as they try regain dominance in the East. However, all this spending doesn’t guarantee them anything. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000 so they shoudl know that money doesn’t buy you happiness (Or I guess a playoff berth)? They also are opening up a new billion dollar stadium, which I’m sure will be pretty. Let’s not talk about A-Rod.
Player to watch: Robinson Cano – My prediction is 100 RBIs for Cano as he picks up A-Roids slack this season.

4. Toronto Blue Jays
Here’s a fun fact for you: the Blue Jays play in the first ever retractable roof dome. Here’s another fun fact: the Blue Jays are the ugliest team in baseball. The offseason acquisition of Kevin Millar not only should help the Jay’s poor offense (maybe), but it also made them a lock for the baseball’s grossest team award and increased the amount of deer piss in the Toronto club house by 100%.

Player to watch: Roy Halladay – He is man. The big horse every teams needs as an ace. Halladay won 20 games last year with a 2.78 ERA.

5. Baltimore Orioles
2009 looks to be better year in Birdland as the Orioles look to improve on their abysmal 68 win season. Brady Anderson and his mysterious 50 homerun season aren’t coming through that door! (Just look at his HR totals) Neither is Billy Ripken (the good Ripken) for that matter. Anyway, with a nucleus of solid players like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, and Adam Jones the O’s have potential on offense. The pitching, on the other hand, should be rough. Jeremy Guthrie and the extremely flat brim of George Sherrill are about all Baltimore has in the pitching department.
Player to watch: Nick Markakis – The right fielder is the best player you don’t know, but should. He had 48 doubles last season and should drive in over 100 runs in 09’.

AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins
The Twins lost the division crown last season in their 163rd game to the Chi Sox. This year they bring back the same young team with the addition of the third baseman Joe Crede in their final season in the Metrodome. The Twins are led by two-time batting champ Joe Mauer, stellar slugger Justin Morneau, and twitchy Joe Nathan. They boast one of the best young pitching rotations in the game and an offense that doesn’t hit many homeruns but was still 4th in the league in runs scored in 2008. If the defense and bullpen improve they should win the Central.

Player to watch: Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain – These two need to step up in the bullpen after a shaky 2008.

2. Cleveland Indians
The Indians finished 2008 with a .500 record, which is respectable considering they lost their ace (C.C. Sabathia) and their three and four hitters (Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner) for most of the season. Cliff Lee established himself as their new ace and took home the AL Cy Young award with 22 wins. By getting healthy and by adding a few new faces (Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa) the Indians could be a force in AL. Also, they have Grady Sizemore, who is possibly the best centerfielder in the game.

Player to watch: Matt LaPorta – Keep an eye on this top prospect to see if can crack the everyday lineup in Cleveland.

3. Kansas City Royals
The Royals open up the 2009 season in the remodeled Kauffman Stadium. They have a few new faces in centerfielder Coco Crisp, first baseman Mike Jacobs, and setup man Juan Cruz. The Royals are headed in the right direction, but the pitching rotation is iffy at best after Gill Meche and Zach Greinke. The Royals also possess one of the best young closers in the league in Joakim Soria (42 saves in 08').
Player to watch: David DeJesus – The leftfielder is a solid player who gets very little credit. He plays solid defense, always hustles, and bats third for the Royals.
4. Chicago White Sox
The Pale Hoes currently have the dumbest slogan in baseball: “There are traditions and there are WHITE SOX TRADITIONS.” I wish I knew what are referring too. All of this comes one year after they claimed “We Are Chicago Baseball.” I think the Cubs and their cute losing ways win that battle. With poor broadcasting, and an abundance of garbage blowing around their field expect Chicago to drop to bottom half of the division on 2009.

Player to watch: Alexi Ramirez – This skinny bugger hit 21 HRs in 2008 look for big things from him as he moves over to shortstop.

5. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers acquired Adam Everett to be their everyday shortstop this season. With that said, they receive an automatic last place vote. Seriously, Adam Everett was terrible for the Twins in 08’. He didn’t even play defense, which is the one thing he has to offer. Anyway, we know the Tigers can hit, but will they pitch? I doubt it.
Player to watch: Justin Verlander – As a starting pitcher he can consistently hit 100 mph with his fastball. He also has a nice mustache.

AL West

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
After a busy offseason where the Angels saw Mark Texiara and record setting closer Frankie Rodriguez leave for the Big Apple, the Angels are still set for another year of dominance in the AL West. They are anchored by their large pool of outfielders, which consists of Vlad, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Gary Matthews Jr., and Rueben Rivera. With the first four being owed roughly $57 million this season, I think it is an appropriate time for us to compare the Angels fetish for outfielders to the Detroit Lions obsession with receivers.
Player to watch: Kendry Morales – Should be the starting first baseman for LA, he has some big shoes to fill.

2. Oakland Athletics
Oakland has new a look this season with the additions of freak-show leftfielder Matt Holiday, Orlando Cabrera, Nomar, and the return of steroids (Jason Giambi) to the Bay. Will Eric Chavez be healthy this year? Meanwhile, look for them to challenge LA for the division crown, and if that doesn’t happen look for Billy Beane to have a fire sale at the deadline.

Player to watch: Starting rotation – The ace of the Oakland pitching staff, Justin Duchscherer, is going to miss roughly six weeks of the season. That leaves Oakland with a very young and inexperienced rotation to begin the season.

3. Texas Rangers
As usual the Rangers will have a great offense. Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Josh Hamilton provide star power at the top of the order. If the Rangers can get any kind of pitching they could become a decent team, however that’s been the same story for ten years now and I wouldn’t expect it change now. PS, thank you Texas for scrapping these ugly things.

Player to watch: Ian Kinsler – He was every bit as spectacular as AL MVP Dustin Pedroia while getting 150 less at bats. Look for a huge year from the Rangers leadoff man.

4. Seattle Mariners
To say the Mariners were a disappointment in 2008 is an understatement. What a year for Seattle sports! It other news Junior is back! I bet he is wondering where the rest of the gang is. He’s confused on why that skinny shit A-Roid isn’t batting in front of him and why that Edgar Martinez cat isn’t around to bat fifth behind him. Instead he has Adrian Beltre and Jeff Clement to sandwich him. Poor Griffey, you should’ve never left. Take away all the injuries and he’s the best player we’ve ever seen.

Player to watch: King Felix – We all know he has the stuff to be a Cy Young candidate.

Wild Card: Boston Red Sox
ALCS: Rays over Angels
AL MVP: Justin Morneau – Minnesota Twins
AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay – Toronto Blue Jays
AL Rookie of the Year: Matt Wieters – Baltimore Orioles, Catcher

NL East
1. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are the defending World Series champs. They brought in Raul Ibanez from Seattle to take over in left for Pat Burrell. Ibanez can hit like crazy, but now the Phillies are very left handed in the heart of their order (Utley, Howard, Ibanez), it probably won’t matter. Chase Utley’s hip might be a concern.
Player to watch: Jayson Werth – Hit 24 homers and drove in 67 runs last season. He will need to produce again and give the Phillies some right handed production.

2. New York Mets
The Metropolitans come into the 2009 season with very high expectations as they open their brand new ballpark Citi Field. They are clearly one of the most talented teams in the league with the dynamic duo of Jose Reyes and David Wright. The Mets also had a busy offseason by bringing in record setting closer Frankie Rodriguez, who broke Bobby Thigpen’s record of 57 saves in a single season in 2008. Thigpen was never the same after all that wear and tear on his arm, so we’ll have to keep an eye on K-Rod. One final thing, check out this ugly patch they decided to wear on their uniforms this season. It's terrible.

Player to watch: K-Rod – Will last season’s wear and tear catch up to Frankie? Let’s hope not. K-Rod is fun to watch and he could be the missing piece the Mets have needed all along to win the East.

3. Atlanta Braves
The Braves success in 2009 will be riding on their pitching staff. The addition of Derek Lowe will help counteract the absence of ace (and former Auburn slugger) Tim Hudson. Young right-handers Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson could be the difference. Meanwhile, Chipper Jones and Brain McCann (quietley one of the best catchers in the league) will anchor a dangerous Braves offense.
Player to watch: Jeff Francoeur – Big Jeffry batted only .239 last season so an offensive turnaround for Francoeur is vital to Atlanta’s success.

4. Florida Marlins
The Marlins once again are a team loaded with young talent that nobody has heard of. Hanley Ramirez is a superstar and will be one the most exciting players in the league to watch. CF Cameron Maybin is a ROY threat and could be the teams leadoff hitter allowing Ramirez to bat third and drive in more runs. The Marlins also boast one of the most underrated pitching rotations in the league led by 15 game winner Ricky Nolasco. If this young team develops during the season they can some noise in the NL.
Player to watch: Hanley Ramirez – I expect his homeruns (17) and RBIs (59) in 2008 to double as he moves to the number three spot in the batting order.

5. Washington Nationals
The Nationals landed a big free agent fish in Adam Dunn during the offseason, but it probably won’t matter. Rumor has it that Dunn just wanted to wear this unique outfit all season. It hurts my head to think about this team so I’m going to stop. Go back to Montreal.
Player to watch: Lastings Milledge – Had respectable numbers (14/61/24) in his first full season and should only get better. His new number is a little confusing and looks pretty stupid.
NL Central
1. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs won 97 games last season, but still couldn’t get over the hump. Surprisingly, the Cubs limited their offseason spending (compared to the New York teams). They brought in psycho outfielder Milton Bradley and Kevin Gregg to be the closer, replacing Kerry Wood who they sent packing to Cleveland. I expect the story to be the same in Chicago this season: another solid regular season followed by a historic choke. I hope I’m wrong.
Player to watch: Milton Bradley – Will he stay healthy or will he tear his ACL arguing with an umpire?

2. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cards finished 11.5 games behind Chicago in 2008 despite an MVP season by Albert Pujols. It should be the same story again this season unless the pitching staff comes through. Chris Carpenter returns to the rotation, but who knows what to expect after sitting out all of last season. Adam Wainwright should be solid as the team’s ace but after that there are questions. St. Louis is also hosting this year’s midsummer classic.

Player to watch: Rick Ankiel – The former pitching phenom is making a name for himself in centerfield for the Redbirds. Had 25 homeruns last season.

3. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have a great offense, but after the departures of Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia, I have a tough time believing they can have the same type of season as they did in 2008. New additions include Jorge Julio, Braden Looper, and all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. Looper can make an impact if healthy, Julio is iffy, and Trevor Time and his bugs bunny changeup send me into cardiac arrest in the ninth inning. The Brewers offense will have to keep Bernie the Brewer busy on his slide this summer if they are going to contend.
Player to watch: Yovani Gallardo – The new ace of a shaky pitching staff will need to return to 2007 form where he had 3.67 ERA.

4. Cincinnati Reds
This season could be exciting in Cincy with the abundance of young talent the Reds possess. Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Edwin Encarnacion can provide some punch with the benefit of the Great American Smallpark. Edison Volquez is nasty at the front end of the rotation, but the Reds will need more from their pitching staff to compete.
Player to watch: Joey Votto – ROY runner-up in 2008 with 24 homeruns. Could hit 30 and drive in 100 in 09’.

5. Houston Astros
The Big Puma, El Caballo, and Miguel Tejada (lied to Congress) create a three-headed monster on the offense. Roy Oswalt is stud at the top of the rotation, but after that Houston is in big trouble. Shane Reynolds isn’t walking through that door!
Player to watch: Roy Oswalt – Quietly had a good campaign in 2008 by winning 17 games.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates
It should be another rough year in Pittsburgh. This is terrible team. Nate McLouth was the lone bright spot last season. The centerfielder won a Gold Glove, hit 26 bombs, and drove in 96 out of the leadoff spot. Check out Nyjer Morgan sweet socks.

Player to watch: Nate McLouth – Also had 46 doubles and 23 steals in 2008.

NL West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Joe Torre’s Dodgers are the favorite in the West after falling just short of the World Series in 2008. The Dodgers better stack up on gummy bears and Gameboys because Manny is back. Young stars Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, and James Loney give the Dodgers a relentless attack around Man Ram and a solid foundation for the future.
Player to watch: Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton – These two are huge keys to success for the Dodgers. Billingsley is now the ace and Broxton needs to be solid as the team’s closer.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are paced by the wonderful duo of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren as they combined for 38 victories in 2008. Arizona has a slew of young and talented position players, whose development is critical to their success. Here’s a disturbing fact: third baseman Mark Reynolds led the league in errors and strikeouts in 2008. Yikes.
Player to watch: Justin Upton – Has an absolute hose in right field. We could see some massive numbers out of this young man if he stays healthy.

3. San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum was a nice story in 2008. The former Oregon State star won the NL Cy Young whole winning 18 games and averaging 10.51 strikeouts per nine innings. The Big Unit has also arrived in the Bay giving the Giants a solid pitching rotation. This also makes Barry Zito the highest paid number four start in baseball history.

Player to watch: Matt Cain – Over the last two seasons Cain has won 15 games and lost 30. Yikes. He will have to be much better in 2009 for the Giants to contend in the West.
4. Colorado Rockies
Every day is no longer a Holiday in Denver after the Rockies traded left fielder Matt Holiday to Oakland for Houston Street this offseason. The Rocks will score runs as usual, but the pitching staff once again is a question mark. There are rumors floating around that Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga, and Vinny Castilla are all coming back.
Player to watch: Troy Tulowitzki – Can he return to his 2007 form where he hit 24 bombs and batted .291? He’ll need to.

5. San Diego Padres
This winter was a tough one for Padres fans. They saw their beloved Trevor Hoffman, baseball’s all-time saves leader, sign a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Later, they watched as the franchise tried to trade away their ace Jake Peavy. Things look rough for the Pads in 2009 as they begin a definite youth movement. It’s going to be extremely sad not hearing “Hells Bells” blaring during the ninth inning. Thankfully there will be another Kevin Kouzmanoff Koozie night.
Player to watch: Adrian Gonzalez – One of the league’s best at first base. Hit 36 homers and drove in 119 without literally any protection at all while playing in a huge ballpark.

Wild Card: New York Mets
NLCS: Cubs over Mets
NL MVP: David Wright, New York Mets
NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros
NL Rookie of the Year: Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals, Outfielder
World Series: Rays over Cubs

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