Saturday, April 3, 2010

7 comments Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Washington Nationals 2010 Team Previews

I am wrapping up the team previews today with the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Washington Nationals 2010 team previews. After this, all my predictions will have been 100% correct and everyone will come to me for sage-like advice about baseball before every season. Obviously, I am delusional if I believe this.

I will start off first with the Texas Rangers.

Texas Rangers

Lineup

I want to start off by saying I like the Texas Rangers this year. This is a great lineup in my opinion. Texas has always had a pretty great lineup, but it has always been the pitching that was the problem for them. Well, now they seem to have both hitting and some (decent) pitching. Jarrod Saltamacchia and Taylor Teagarden are going to be sharing the catching duties and that's not a terrible platoon to have really at the catcher position. This is a damn good infield based on reality and on potential as well. Elvis Andrus is a year away from being an elite shortstop, Ian Kinsler is one of the best second basemen in the majors, Michael Young is still a good hitter and Chris Davis (though he does hit for a low average) is a great home run hitter. I fully expect Josh Hamilton to have a bounce back year this year after he struggled with injuries some last year, Nelson Cruz hits the ball very far, and Julio Borbon was the surprise (in my mind) of this offense. I knew very little about him and didn't expect him to be as effective at the major level like he was. I didn't like the Vladimir Guerrero signing when I heard about it, but I have really come around. I think even if he struggles or is injured then David Murphy can do a decent job of covering for him in the DH spot. This is a good offense that has many players who haven't reached their potential yet.

Rotation

I may be overrating the pitching staff of the Rangers a bit, but I do like it. It looks like the rotation of Feldman, Harden, Lewis, Hunter, Harrison is what the Rangers are going with. I have seen a couple previews with C.J. Wilson at the 4th starter spot, but that seems like nonsense to me because he is such a valuable bullpen guy, I don't know why they would go away from him staying in the pen. I fully expect Scott Feldman to have a year that isn't quite as good as last year's record indicated, but I also think Rich Harden will do well in Texas, so those two may even out. Colby Lewis didn't start much last year (one game), but he is projected to be the 3rd starter for this team at the beginning of the season. I don't know how I feel about him starting this year, because I think they should put Neftali Feliz in the rotation and not stick him in the pen...but it's not up to me. If Tommy Hunter is healthy he should be a good arm in the rotation and I look for him to improve on his totals last year. I have no idea why Matt Harrison isn't a better pitcher than he currently is. Some of his numbers were terrible last year and I feel like he should be better than he currently is. I followed him a lot when he was in the Braves farm system and I thought he could pitch better than he has. This is a good rotation, at least based party on potential, but I am not 100% sure it will translate into actual good pitching for the Rangers.

Bullpen

I am very much more sure about this bullpen. C.J. Wilson is a great set up guy and if the Rangers decide to stick Feliz here, he would make for a great RH set up guy for the Rangers. That would only strengthen the bullpen. Chris Ray was terri-horrible-fically bad last year and I am not sure he can even get worse for this year. It may not be possible for this to happen. If he bounces back, then the Rangers are going to have a great pen, but if he doesn't then Feliz will end up with the RH set up guy spot, which isn't a terrible thing, though I think he belongs in the rotation. Both Dustin Nippert and Darren Oliver are great pitchers coming out of the pen and they will only serve to make this pen stronger. I thought Oliver would fall off a few years ago and it never happened...so he may never fall off and stay forever young. Having Frank Francisco as closer is really nice. If he is injured this year then the Rangers do have options to replace him. Feliz, Ray or Wilson could take the closer spot. Either way, the Rangers are going to have a strong pen whether he is healthy or not.

What I Like

I like this lineup and I like the bullpen a lot. I feel like this is a lineup that is going to be able to put some runs on the board and the best part is they have young guys who are going to come off the bench who could at some point be key contributors to the team as well. The bench has guys like Justin Smoak and Taylor Teagarden coming off the bench or sharing time. David Murphy is also not a bad guy to have coming off the bench and Andres Blanco will be the utility infielder. I do love Smoak being on the bench though, he is a guy who may end up being a stud at first base. I also like how the rotation is being built. They are trying to build with young guys and the risk they took on Rich Harden I think will end up being worth it. The question this year will come down to pitching again and I think if the Rangers would put Feliz (I know, I keep bringing it up) in the rotation and some of the other guys pitch well this year, that concern will be answered. I do like the bullpen a lot though, so if the Rangers have a lead, the pen probably won't blow it.

What I Don't Like

I don't like the bench depth. Yeah, there are some guys there, but there isn't much else other than Blanco, Smoak and David Murphy. If injuries start to hit in the infield I don't know who is going to be able to pick up the slack that injured player left behind. I like the risks the Rangers took on Guerrero and Harden, but I have to face the fact this risks may not work and the Rangers will have a hole in their pitching staff and at the DH. Also, Scott Feldman will probably not have as good of a year this upcoming year as he did last. His peripheral numbers aren't that impressive so I think he is due for a bit of a fall. If Harden doesn't deliver and Feldman steps it down a notch, this rotation isn't going to look great at all. Then they will be the Rangers team that can hit but not pitch again.

Final Record

I have a hard time figuring out this team. I really like them, but I just don't know if the pitching is good enough in the AL West. They are sort of the opposite of the Seattle Mariners. They have good hitting, but could use some pitching at the top of their rotation like the Mariners have. If we could just combine those teams, I think then that would be a team that could beat the Angels out for the AL West title. Apart, I don't believe either team will be able to do it. This Rangers team has a bright future and I can see Andrus having a great year and Borbon also having a great year with Hamilton bouncing back from his injuries. They will hit, but it is the pitching that still needs to be sorted out. Even if they get great performances from some guys in the rotation, and even with the strong bullpen, I am not sure this Rangers team is strong enough to beat the Angels.

Last year: 87-75
This year: 83-79

Toronto Blue Jays

Lineup

What lineup? I am kidding of course. I should actually say, "what starting rotation?" I am going to go ahead and say I don't expect Aaron Hill to have another season like he had last year. His power numbers were incredible for a player who had no real history of power and I am not sure he can do it again. In the infield, John Buck is an average catcher, Alex Gonzalez starts for defensive purposes and Lyle Overbay and Edwin Encarnacion are the only two possible sources of hitting prowess available. Overbay had a fairly good year last year, while Encarnacion was injured and needs to get back to his 2008 level if the Blue Jays don't want to be last in the AL East. Vernon Wells continues to be a disappointment for how much money he makes and I know some expect him to rebound this year, but I just don't see it personally. Adam Lind was using the same PEDs that Aaron Hill was using, so I wouldn't count on him again either. As far as right field and left field goes, it is sort of intermixed with the DH. Lind will be the DH at times and Randy Ruiz may get some time there as well. The wild card for the Blue Jays is Travis Snider. When he is not the DH, he will be the LF, and Jose Bautista looks like he is penciled in at right field...or it may be the other way around, I get the feeling it is all up in the air.

Rotation

If there was ever a rotation that looks bare after losing a great pitcher, it is the Blue Jays rotation. There isn't that much here. There are about 8 guys who want 5 spots in the rotation. The ones we know for sure at this point are Ricky Romero who is the "ace," Shawn Marcum who is coming off surgery, Brandon Morrow who I always thought was going to be a closer for some reason, Dana Eveland, and Brett Tallet. Other than that, when they get over injuries and ineffectiveness Dustin McGowan, Marc Rzepcynski, and Brett Cecil will be in the mix. It is going to be that type of season for the Jays rotation. Hell, Scott Richmond may even sneak into the rotation at some point as well. It's looks as if it will be a pretty uneven year in the starting rotation for the Blue Jays. It's not that some of these guys don't have talent, it's just that injuries have wiped away that talent so far and the Jays are left with a bunch of question marks in their rotation.

Bullpen

This is not a bad bullpen. Of course with Roy Halladay taking up 8 innings every 5th day, the work load of the bullpen may see an increase now that they don't have that luxury. Jason Frasor's numbers looked good as the closer but he also had 3 blown saves and 11 saves. That kind of a percentage does not bode well for a team that may not have a lot of leads in the 9th inning. Actually, as a whole this bullpen is pretty good. Scott Down and Kevin Gregg are quality set up guys, Jeremy Accardo had a great year as the closer in 2007 and if he returns to that form this bullpen will be even better, and Shawn Camp may be a little bit on the older side, but he pitched well last year. Casey Janssen seems to have the long reliever role right now, but one of the many losers for the 5th starter spot will probably end up in the role at some point. There figures to be quite a few candidates for the 5th starter spot, so those who don't go to the minors will probably appear next in the bullpen.

What I Like

Let's see. I like the Blue Jays offense somewhat. If Aaron Hill and Adam Lind hit as well as they did last year this team may not end up in 5th place in the AL East. Of course if Lind and Hill both hit as well as they did last year...well that isn't happening...but if it did the Jays may not be in 5th place. So that is something. Combine the fact Edwin Encarnacion could end up being a good hitter as well this year if he isn't injured and they very well may run away with 4th place. The optimistic way to look at this team is that Travis Snider will probably have an even better year this year than he did last year and they have a lot of options in the outfield. Between Lind, Ruiz, Snider, and Bautista the DH, RF, and LF will be well taken care of in regard to players who are capable of playing the position. The pitching may not be as terrible as I think it could be and the Jays have options. Options are great! Also, the Jays have a fairly decent bullpen that seems to be able to hold a lead when this team gets one.

What I Don't Like

Let's start off with the Jays starting rotation. It's not the strongest and to make matters worse with the bullpen being a strength, the lack of good starters may cause the bullpen to pitch more innings and cause the pen to tire out. Really the problems start with the rotation. They are relying on reclamation projects and guys coming off injuries to pitch well. We'll see how that goes. The lineup isn't terrible, but they also have a defensive minded shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, being backed up by another defensive minded shortstop, John McDonald. That seems useless to me. Then we throw in the fact Jose Bautista is the backup at every outfield position and some infield positions, it makes me wonder if he is the backup manager too...just in case Cito Gaston needs a break. I don't want to make this team seem like a complete mess, but they are fairly close. They aren't going to contend and they even have some bad contracts (Vernon Wells) they have to deal with. The White Sox won't always be around to bail them out of those bad contracts. The Jays are rebuilding, so it is tough to find a lot to like about this current team.

Final Record

I would be shocked if the Jays could get 3rd place in this division. It may even surprise me if they could beat out the Orioles for 4th place. They don't even have the pitching to keep up with Orioles, that's not good. It's just not happening this year. The Blue Jays don't have enough pitching and the hitters they do have are not good enough to win 10-8 baseball games. They are rebuilding, there is no secret about that, but I don't know if I have faith in this team to rebuild and actually compete. Again, they are in the AL East, so they even have to compete with the Rays for "best team that isn't the Yankees or the Red Sox." They don't have good enough pitching right now and the hitters who had good years last year may not be able to repeat those years for this upcoming year. It may be a long year in Toronto and it might also take me a year to believe they are on the right path.

Last year: 75-87
This year: 67-95

Washington Nationals

Lineup

If I wasn't contractually obligated to preview this team I probably would just write down, "they aren't good at any position" and leave it at that...but I can't leave them out. I'm going to say this. They have improved...but not by much. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, but it's really small. Apparently the plan was to bring in a bunch of old, underwhelming veterans. If that was the goal, then mission accomplished. I am not even sure what Ivan Rodriguez provides anymore to the catcher position because I think even his defense has slipped, Adam Kennedy should be a backup but he isn't (ok, maybe he has one good year left), and Willie Harris is still Willie Harris. Now let's be a little optimistic. They have Adam Dunn manning first base, who for some reason still doesn't get as much credit as I think he should get. He sucks at defense, yes, but he gets on-base and drives in runs and I am still surprised no team wanted to pay him more than $10 million per year to do that last year. Ryan Zimmerman should have another good year, Nyjer Morgan was an actual steal by the Nats from the Pirates (it is like the blind stealing from the blind), and Josh Willingham is umm...still a decent player. The biggest issue I have with this team is why they hate themselves enough to possibly let Cristian Guzman start over Ian Desmond. For God's sake, keep Guzman out of the lineup and go with Desmond. Please?

Rotation

The best pitcher in this rotation is in the minor leagues right now. What is left is Jason Marquis, the "ace" of the staff, who I personally can't stand as a pitcher anywhere above #3 in the rotation, John Lannan, and Scott Olson who may get cut from the team according to ESPN. How much would that suck to get cut from the Nats and be Scott Olson? Remember when he was supposed to be a good pitcher...and now he gets cut for Jordan Zimmerman. Olson has had anger problems in the past and this certainly wouldn't help those problems. Garrett Mock is going to try to be the #4 starter with a poo-poo platter of Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin, and Drew Storen fighting for the right to be taken out of the rotation from the 5th starter spot as soon as the Nationals decide they have saved enough money and call up Stephen Strasburg. There's really not much analysis needed here. This isn't a good rotation, though Lannan and Olson should have some potential to be decent. Jason Marquis is just Jason Marquis.

Bullpen

Matt Capps is going to get paid $2 million dollars to lose the closer's job this year, while Drew Storen may get ripped from the rotation and end up the closer. You know you are previewing a terrible team when a guy like Storen could be in the rotation, bullpen or the closer of the team. It's like they just don't know which way exactly they want to ruin his career right now. Let's just say Matt Capps was a terrible signing. He's not a good closer. Brian Bruney would just be another guy in any other bullpen, but in the Nationals pen he is the set up guy and Ron Villone is the LH set up guy out of the pen. He's not bad. Tyler Walker isn't bad either and that's about it. I would love to list the other guys, but how many leads is this team going to have to hold really? Even if the pen was good, the Nationals are still going to have score some runs, and even if the Nationals score runs I have a feeling the bullpen would be slightly overworked anyway. I just don't have faith in the Nationals pitchers to pitch deep enough into games.

What I Like

I actually don't hate the Nationals offense. Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, Nyjer Morgan, and Josh Willingham are actually decent major league hitters or have some sort of qualities that enable them to be productive major league hitters. Why the Nationals went out and signed the corpse of Ivan Rodriguez I don't understand. Maybe they are hoping he can teach the Nationals hitters the best way to use PEDs and not get caught (I kid). I probably would have tried to hand the job to Jesus Flores, but what do I know, I am not trying to run a franchise in the ground. I also do like the Nationals signed Marquis because it at least shows they are serious about trying to win...no matter whether Marquis can actually help them do this or not. It's going to be a long road and the Nationals do have some pieces in place for success in the future.

What I Don't Like

I don't like the rotation for the Nationals. There just isn't that much there to build the team around in the rotation. If Strasburg makes it to the majors, he isn't going to join a staff of pitchers on his level. I can't help but wonder how he will react to that. He may be used to it from college, but still I think it will be interesting. The Nationals seem to have a plan to sign veterans now and try to get young players mixed in and I can't help but wonder if it will work. I don't really like that they are thinking of having Christian Guzman start over Ian Desmond. It is decisions like that which make question whether this team is going to succeed. Willie Harris is the backup at every outfield position and I wish they had a little more depth in case one of the starters struggles or gets injured. I don't know if a team like the Nationals can afford to have that much depth though. Willy Tavaras is going to be prominently involved with the team as well in the outfield, which makes him a fast guy who doesn't provide much offensively. I would think they have enough of those already.

Final Record

This team is going to finish last in the NL East. That's a given. What they really need to focus on is building a good team for the future and it is too early to tell if they have done that. Obviously Strasburg is a good start and Ryan Zimmerman is a guy they can build the lineup around. They just aren't that good this year and I am not sure when they are going to be good honestly. This is a team that has other team's leftovers and guys who weren't wanted by other teams on the roster...and Adam Dunn. That has to say something there that many of these players weren't wanted by other teams or seem to be reclamation projects. If they had better pitching, maybe I could be more optimistic, but even then I don't trust the offense enough to go that far. I have saved the possible worst for last, but the Nationals are a team that may be going somewhere or they may be going nowhere. The only thing I know for sure is that we won't know exactly which direction they are going this year...other than not up in the standings.

Last year: 59-103
This year: 64-98

That's it for the team previews, I hope everyone enjoys the season.

7 comments:

Facebones said...

Sigh... It's been a long 17 years for the Blue Jays fan.

I remember my entire university dancing in the streets when Toronto won the World Series in '92 and '93. I remember when we were accused of "buying" championships when we signed Jack Morris to a $5 million/year contract, which made our entire payroll a whopping $50 million a year. (Why, harumphed one columnist, the whole franchise only cost $5 million back in 1977!)

But, those days of the free flowing Labatt's beer money and 4 million fans are but a memory. Even when the payroll increased, RIcciardi spent the money horribly. BJ Ryan? Burnett? (And he will kill the Yankees before long, by the way.) Rios?

I can't get too mad at JP for the horrible Wells contract. The consensus in 2005 was that Wells was the next Beltran, and the Jays were smart to get him before he left in free agency. That he has tanked horribly is not JP's fault. (The terrible back loaded contract that makes him untradeable is another story.) I am just hoping that Lind doesn't take the same path, since he just signed an extension.

I am hopeful that the new GM Anthopolous can help turn things around. I think he did pretty well in getting some good prospect in return for Halladay. But how can you get equal value for your franchise's best ever pitcher? (Sorry, Dave Stieb)

Ah well... I can usually get Jays tickets cheap on StubHub when they come to New York.

Bengoodfella said...

Sorry I can't feel too excited about your team. I don't hold a grudge for the 1992 World Series. On a positive note, they got great prospects from Philly, so that will help them in the future.

You don't have to tell me about AJ Burnett, I didn't want the Braves to sign him and I DO NOT trust him in the Yankees rotation, I really don't. When he goes 11-13 this year with a 4.27 ERA I won't be surprised.

I shouldn't blame them for the Wells contract. They had no choice really, he was a rising star. I don't think Lind will take that path, though I am not sure he can repeat last year. He is still not a bad ball player. It is the rotation that kills me.

They did a good job in getting what they could for Halladay, which shows you always trade a player before the season has started and he has 1 year left on his deal.

I think the Jays could turn it around, just not this year.

Martin F. said...

Riccardi was jsut terrible. I never understood any of the moves he made as GM. I was all for making sure they signed Wells, but the contract was absurd. It was the old "bidding against themselves" thing. Nobody was going to come within 10% and probably 20% of the contract they gave him. Everything else was just worse.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Jays. I used to play a game as a kid called APBA baseball with my friend Fred. We each took a favorite team, and then had to take one of teh expansion teams, Blue Jays or Mariners. We had little 4o game seasons with stat keeping and everything, and I got the Blue Jays. So ever since then, I've followed the team, and yeah, it's been pretty ugh since about 1995.

Martin F. said...

Thread jack...

I jsut watched the replay of the West Virginia kid, Butler get hurt. WTF is going on with the safety personel there? The kid has what looks like major damage to a knee, can't walk, and it looks like high school care out there. He has to be carried off by a teammate and some dude about 6 inches shorter then the teammate, down a set of stairs, and off into the nevernever. Where's a god damned wheelchair? A ramp for a gurney? How about a GURNEY for fucks sake? Absolutely pathetic display of taking care of a "student-athlete" by the Tourney sight and the NCAA.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin F, I think if the Jays were more successful now I wouldn't like them. I held a grudge for a little bit because they beat the Braves in the World Series. Then it became an issue of I would hate every team in MLB if I hated anyone beat the Braves in the WS.

Yeah, I don't know if I have ever seen a gurney take a player off the court. I have seen it happen after he gets off the court. Either way, it was a painful scene to watch. Poor guy, he had a bad night and then hurt his knee 2 1/2 months before the draft.

The Casey said...

Peter King is picking a Tampa Bay-Atlanta World Series. What. The. Fuck?

wv=pheat

Bengoodfella said...

He's always wrong too! Which makes this sucks for the Braves...though that Heyward home run today was bad ass.