Tagged: Ricky Nolasco

MLB Season Preview: With a Blue Jay/A.L. East Bias

Picking the Jays (in the A.L. East)

Call me crazy but I am picking the Toronto Blue Jays to win the A.L. East this year.  Seriously!  I know what you might be thinking?  And I’m not one of those people who pick his favorite/hometown team to win it every year.  If I recall, I had the Jays finishing dead last behind Baltimore last season.  If anything, I should be repeating that prediction based on Baltimore’s improvement and Baseball Prospectus slotting the Jays dead last in their preview.  I disagree, and say that last year was just a sign of better things to come from the Jays.

Here is Why?
 
Jays

Nobody in the Jays rotation stands out at you, but believe me, they are all solid arms.  I see Kyle Drabek proving to be the prospect everyone thought he’d be, working deep into games late in the season and winning ROY.  When Brandon Morrow comes back from the DL he is going to tally up big strikeout numbers and win big games.  Ricky Romero also has that ‘big game’ mentality.  The Jays can expect another solid season out of him.  These three are the pitchers that the Jays will rely on, also getting decent contributions from the back-end guys like Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch, Jo-Jo Reyes and possibly Zach Stewart later in the year.   The bullpen looks formidible with three former closers (Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco).  This could be, but won’t a concern in my opinion. 

The key factor in the Jays winning this season is that the pitching gets better!!  I can easily see this occuring under new manager, and pitching specialist, John Farrell.  We all saw how the offense caught fire last year, and this year the pitching steps up to compliment it. 

Also notable, is the Jays have adding some effective speed to get on base with Rajai Davis, a full season out of Travis Snider @Lunchboxhero45 maintaining a high .OBP and Yunel Escobar having a bounceback year at the plate while helping the pitchers in spades defensively.  Along with that, the Jays look better defensively in the outfield with Corey Patterson being a late-inning defensive replacement.

Then, throwing more to the fire is Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Hill and J.P. Arencibia all having productive years at the plate.  Encarnacion and Arencibia emerge as a legitimate homerun threats this season, while Aaron Hill gets his batting average in the .320’s

All this is a formula for success.  The Jays put together a full year and take a commanding lead on the A.L. East early.  We sweep the Yankees in a home series in mid-September, giving the Jays what they need to lock up the A.L. East crown.

Importantly, I buy a t-shirt to commemorate the event.  Yay!!!!!!!! ha ha.
 

Jays11 copy.jpg
     

Rest of the A.L. East   

If you haven’t noticed this offseason, the A.L. East has changed drastically.  The Red Sox, Rays, Orioles and even the Yankees have rearranged their clubs in ways that might alter the landscape of this division.  On paper, you could say that the Red Sox and Orioles improved the most over the offseason, but every year we see good teams on paper disintegrate.  The Red Sox are definitely familiar with that.  So, that is what I am predicting for 2011. 

Orioles

The Orioles revamped their offense but are relying on too many unprovens in their rotation, and everybody can see it.  Their weakness is glaring.  The acquistion of guys like Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy shows that they are going to be a team that can flash the lumber, although without a solid nucleus behind them.  Similar to the Jays last year, their offensive numbers will be significant, but their record will not be enough for the wild card.  They’ll have a better season though, I’ll give them that as a fact.     

Red Sox

The Red Sox got some premiere players (Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford), an improved bullpen (Bobby Jenks) and a promising rotation (a thinner, healthier John Lackey).  They seem like the sexy pick to win the World Series right now, so they have that working against them.  Expectations will be high and they will fail to meet them this season.  Watch Papelbon gets yanked as closer, Scutaro and Saltamacchia not cut it defensively and their acquisitions take time to get aclimated to the change of scenery.  Jose Bautista ends up owning the Green Monster in Fenway.  So much so, they contemplate taking it down the following year.  Okay, I’ve started to dream a bit.      

Yankees *Wild Card Pick*

You could say the same old things about the Yankees.  Tired responses like they have an aging roster, and they will fold under the pressure of playing in New York.  But I won’t say them again, as I’ve been burned by these statements in the past.  I have the Yankees winning the Wild Card for the second year in a row.  Their back end rotation won’t have to be amazing to guide them through the year.  If they aren’t good, I like the depth they have in the minors with guys like David Phelps, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman for the 2011 season.  The Yanks bullpen also got a lot stronger with Rafeal Soriano.  It is going to scare clubs to get into late innings with that team.  They’ll take the Wild Card, but the Jays will be a handful for them all year. 

Rays    

Hard to see the Rays finishing the season low in the standings after winning the division last year, isn’t it?  They will have a good club, no doubt.  However, I know how important it is to have a good bullpen in the A.L. East, and they don’t have one for 2011.  They still have a good season, but blow too many late leads on the road to the Yankees, Jays and Red Sox.  Bautista walk-offs bombs will be their demise.   

Baseball Does Not Revolve Around the A.L. East (I forgot)

There are actually other divisions, with some other good teams.  Believe it or not?

A.L. Central 

Tigers win this division on the backs of Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera.  Both these players have a long history of wraking the baseball.  Prospect Jacob Turner makes an impact in the rotation as a mid-season call-up and the rotation survives as the offense is a juggernaut in 2011.  The only PED Miguel Cabrera needs is scotch.

A.L. West

The Angels show MLB that defense in the outfield is as important as any aspect in the game.  Balls are gobbled up all year by Bourjos, Hunter and Wells, and
the best rotation in the West quells the Rangers bats all year.  The Angels win their matchups with the A’s starters on a consistant basis.  They are a fast, well managed and better team at producing offense.  The Angels are my ‘ultimate dark horse’ this year.  

National League

N.L. East

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, need I say anymore names?  The Phillies rotation will get them loads of wins and Ryan Howard will wrake once again in 2011.  Hard to pick against them, I dare anybody to do it.  They are the class of this division.

Marlins *Wild Card Pick*

You’d think that the Braves would be the logical team to pick here.  Many predict them to improve upon last season.  They also scooped up Uggla from the Marlins.  However, the N.L. East, apart from the Phillies, has been a very competitive division and the fish look on the verge of making some noise.  The Marlins come into 2011 with a more experienced pitching staff, adding Vasquez and looking for prime years from Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson.  The lineup features a very good young outfield on the brink of providing Hanley Ramirez with some needed protection.  Marlins suprise everyone this season except me. 

N.L. Central

The Reds were so impressive last season that I’m riding them to the World Series this year.  With a taste of the playoffs last year, I see a hungry team looking for more.  No doubt, the Cardinals and Brewers will give them enough competition this year.  But I believe that will only help fuel this team.  They showed a tremendous consistancy as a team last year, and a great will and desire to win every game.  The central is slowing becoming a very tough division, and Joey Votto is looking like a “big red machine” at the top of it.  I see Cueto and Volquez solidifying themselves as frontline starters and Aroldis Chapman starting mid-season to boost the Reds even further. 

N.L. West  

It’s the Giants.  Dominant pitching characterized this team last year, and the scary thing is that they are all young players that are getting better.  They might have a shaky beginning this year, but the Giants will end it in first.  Their pitching is that much better than any other team in their division.  Big years from Madison Bumgartner and Buster Posey make them even better in 2011.  

World Series    

Angels vs. Reds

Winner: Angels in 7 games  

Don’t anybody call me unoriginal!  Dan Haren and Jared Weaver provide a great playoff stretch for the Angels and they win it just as the Giants won it last year; with pitching and defense (not including Scott Kazmir in that equation).   

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My Fantasy Baseball Team

I wanted to do an entry about my team because they have been a big part of my baseball experience this season.  There is nothing like Fantasy Baseball to give you the motivation to keep ‘up to date’ on all the stats, scores, prospects and player movement in MLB. 

My team is called the Homer City Hawks, (its my last name followed by the City and the Hawks was the name of team that owned my team prior to me getting in this pool).  I thought it was a pretty good name with a nice ring to it.

Anyway, Im in a 16 team keeper league that has been going on since the early 90’s. At that
baseball_free.jpg time Fantasy Baseball wasn’t even on the internet and it was in its infancy.  The league originated in London, Ontario (great baseball town, former home of the London Tigers and close to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Thomas, Ontario).  The league is called the Sherwood Forest Baseball League and we play on CBSsportline.com.  It is highly competitve, guys fly from B.C. and Manitoba down to Ontario to participate in the one day draft event. 

The format is weekly and yearly.  It is points based, so 1 to 16 in the categories of (K’s, WHIP, Saves, SBs, HRs, AVG, RBIs, Wins, Runs.  Pretty standard.  

My dilemma, right now, is the keeper part.  We have to select 8 keepers at the beginning of next season and I’m indecisive on who I should keep?  I can only lose a certain amount of guys, depending on how I finish.  I took over a team with many holes and various problems.  I’ve tried to rebuild them into a winner, but right now, I’m in 8th place in the 16 team league.  Anyway, this is the 2008 Homer City Hawks.  Who do you think I should keep?  What are my strengths/weaknesses??  if you are reading? 

Starting Lineup September 11, 2008

C Josh Bard SD, Salary 3

C Taylor Teagarden TEX, 1  (i’m very thin at Catcher something I have to address Teagarden is a good prospect though)

1B Justin Morneau MIN, 17

Justin Morneau - Minnesota Twins

2B Rickie Weeks MIL, 9 (don’t know if I should keep him.  He has been pretty bad, a lot of potenial though)

3B Mark Reynolds ARI, 22 (low AVG, but a lot of homers)

MI Christian Guzman WAS, 1 (don’t know???)

SS Alexei Ramirez, CWS, 1 (this guy is on the verge of doing some special things)

Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen, left, welcomes Alexei Ramirez, and Jim Thome to the dugout after the pair scored on a double by A.J. Pierzynski during the sixth inning of their baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Chicago, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008.

CI Mark DeRosa, CHC, 14 (gotta keep him, he can play every position)

Mark DeRosa - Chicago Cubs

OF Bobby Abreu, NYY, 37 (decline??)

OF Vladimir Guerrero, ANA, 45 (decline??)

OF Marlon Byrd, TEX, 1 (solid season thus far, don’t know if he is in their future plans?)

OF Ryan Church, NYM, 3 (He might be special next year, if he can stay healthy)

Ryan Church - New York Mets

OF Brian Giles, SD, 11

DH Daniel Murphy, NYM, 1

PITCHERS

SP Colin Balester, WAS, 1

SP Dave Bush, MIL, 9

SP John Lackey, ANA, (Is this guy on the decline???  Some bad starts recently) 

SP Ricky Nolasco, FLA, 1 (didn’t think I would keep him, but might have to now.  He has been outstanding)

Florida Marlins starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco throws in the eighth inning of a baseball game with the Philadelphia Phillies, Wednesday, Sept. 10,  2008, in Philadelphia. Nolasco struck out eight in 7  2-3 innings as the Marlins went on to win 7-3, taking two of the three games in the series.

SP Ubaldo Jimenez, COL, 10 (rocky year in Colorado, still young and gets high K’s, don’t know?) 

SP Oliver Perez, NYM, 19 (man, is this guy up and down)

SP Chris Young, SD, 9

SP Zach Jackson, CLE, 1

RP Bobby Jenks, CWS, 5 (he is shut down)

Bobby Jenks - Chicago White Sox

BENCH RESERVES

OF Milton Bradley, TEX, 13 (Was this year a fluke?  He was very good though, injured now however.)

C Michael Barrett, SD, 13

C Matt Treanor, FLA, 1

1B Chris Carter, BOS, 1

3B Mike Lamb, MIL, 1

OF Jody Gerut, SD, 1

1B Randy Ruiz, MIN, 1

BENCH PITCHERS

SP Kevin Millwood, TEX, 15

SP Kenny Rogers, DET, 19

SP Jarrod Washburn, SEA, 1

RP C.J. Wilson, TEX, 1

RP Rafeal Perez, CLE, 1

SP Micah Owings, ARI, 5

MINORS

C Brett Anderson, STL

SP Brett Cecil, TOR

SP Kevin Pucetas, SF

Active: 23, Reserve: 13, Injured: 1, Minors: 3, Active Salary: 230, Total Salary: 307 of a possible 360

My goal is to keep ‘value guys’ with low salary.  Are Abreu or Vlad on the decline???  Things I have to think about.  The guys that I’m going to keep, as it stands currently, are in bold.  I should be looking for pitching in the draft, so I’m going to hang onto a lot of my hitters.  Church or Bradley is a tough call for me??