HAPPY OPENING DAY TIGERS FANS!!! This season is one that I am very excited for. The Tigers are clear favorites to win the AL Central and have also been linked to making another return to the World Series. I am really excited about their lineup and their starting rotation this year. The additions of Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez back to the lineup as well as the clubhouse is going to be very crucial this season. They are both veterans that are great clubhouse guys that will be able to take the younger stars under their wings and teach them how to cope with the game mentally and physically. Getting Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez for a full year with give the Tigers a great advantage to what they started with last year. The AL Central has improved a lot but they should still be able to get it done.
I love what Jim Leyland has done with his roster but there are a couple changes that I would like to be done:
1. The closer position has been the most debated topic so far this spring. I completely agree with the fact that the Tigers kept Rondon down in the Minors to develop his game, he needs to work on the control of his pitches. A lot of people just want pitchers to go up there and throw as hard as they can and that will take care of anything else. This might work for a little while but these hitters would figure him out pretty easily if that were to happen. I think that they have very capable guys who can get the job done.
Phil Coke is my favorite player for the job. He show what he can do last year in the playoffs and has a bull dog mentality that would be huge for the guy with the most mental position in the game. Closers have to know that they are the best and they can get the job done every night. He has to be able to rebound from a bad night and not let any failures get him in a slump. Octavio Dotel can come in and pitch in any scenario, the guy is a complete veteran that knows what to do in almost every situation but I would not feel as comfortable with him in an everyday closer role.
Benoit did have a subpar year last year for what he has done in the past. He didn’t give up that many hits but when he did they seemed to be home runs. Hopefully he will have a rebound year this year and I think he is another guy who could close in certain situations but I wouldn’t feel as comfortable with him in the job as Dotel or Coke. Villareal and Albuquerque are two young pitchers who have great stuff and could develop into great relief pitchers. I love the potential that they have a could see them fill the role in a few years but just not this year especially with the three pitchers that are in front of them.
2. I wish there was some more speed of the bench but they did not really have many options for it. Quintin Berry would have been nice to be able to keep on the roster but he was hurt for a while during Spring Training so he needs some time to get into form. I am really excited to see what Tuiasosopa can do and I love that he can play the corner OF and IF positions. He adds a lot of versatility to go along with Kelly who plays the same positions but hit from the left side instead of Tuiasosopo’s right-handed bat. Berry will be up sooner or later this season and so will Danny Worth, especially if a Peralta, Infante or Santiago do get hurt.
3. The starting rotation is very good but I would have given Smyly the starting job. Both Porcello and Smyly are very capable pitchers especially for the 5th starter. I would have liked a lefty in the rotation to get some different lineups from opposing managers. I also like what Porcello does in only a couple innings of work, which is what he would be doing in a long relief spot on the team. Through his first 2 innings of work during his games he has a 3.83 ERA while a 4.27 ERA in his 3rd and 4th innings and then a 5.02 ERA in innings 5 and 6. He did have an awesome Spring Training but those games don’t really mean much, he has a ton of potential to be great and I could see them displaying him in the 5th spot so that they could get a big trade for him towards the deadline date.
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One team that is really intriguing me this year in Major League Baseball is the Houston Astros. The Astros have been a struggling team in the National League for the last half dozen years since they appeared in the World Series in 2005. This year is going to look completely different from anything the Astros have ever done. They changed colors, changed logos, changed jerseys, changed managers and something that doesn’t happen too often, they changed leagues. They moved from the National League Central into the American League West Division. This move will even the teams in each league to 15 instead of having 16 in the NL and 14 in the AL. There is a different style of playing in each division so the whole organization will have to change their ways from the Front Office Personnel to the coaches to the players. They are also moving into a division that had the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers who both made the playoffs last season. Along with those two teams they are going to have to play a revamped Seattle Mariners lineup and a Los Angeles Angels team that has the 4th highest payroll in the Majors with a 152 million dollar whose best player is only getting paid $510,000. The Astros have a lot of young players that have good potential and a few that could be future stars in the league. They will struggle this year but hopefully it will be a good stepping stone for a successful future.
Jose Altuve will be the full time 2nd baseman. He is a 22 year old that has potential through the roof. He hit .290 in his first full season in the Majors and also added 33 stolen bases. He won’t hit for power but will be a valuable part of a team going through a transition. Brett Wallace can play 1st or 3rd but will be getting the most of the 1st base starting spots. He isn’t exactly the prototypical American League 1st basemen who will hit for a lot of power. He has only hit 16 home runs in his short 232 game career but he should hit for a pretty good average and will be a good defensive player. Chris Carter is a guy that the Astros just received in a trade for shortstop Jed Lowrie. Carter has the potential to hit for a lot of power and do damage with the stick, especially in Minute Maid Park. He will probably play in Left Field but can also play Right field or 1st base. Carlos Pena is the most well-known player on this Astros club and will be the full time DH but could also play 1st. He owns a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove as well as an All-Star appearance. He will strikeout a lot and won’t hit for a good average but when he makes contact it will go far. The combo of Carter and Pena should produce a lot of HR and RBI’s.
The rest of the lineup will probably be filled out by Jason Castro, Justin Maxwell, Matt Dominguez, Ronny Cedeno, JD Martinez, Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez, as well as some others. Castro, Dominguez and JD Martinez are a few of the higher potential players that could make a huge impact this year. Bud Norris is going to be their ace but the rest of their pitching staff will be very suspect. I learned today that they will probably go with an unconventional pitching strategy using a eight man rotation for the first couple months. Using one pitching for the first half of the game and then one for the second half if they do well. After a few months they will then reevaluate who can show the team something good from there. The Astros should be very solid defensively but will struggle at the plate. I do think that they will finish at the bottom of the AL West but should be a contender with development among their lineup and additions to their pitching staff in the next few years. They will be one of the teams that I am definitely going to keep my eye on this year, as well as rooting for them to succeed.
I am Benjamin Brown, thank you for reading my article about the Houston Astros, if you would like to read other articles about baseball please check out my other articles.
The USA team came up short in their first game against Mexico, 5-2. RA Dickey got the start for Team USA and Yovani Gallardo for Team Mexico. Gallardo pitched 3 1/3 innings and struck out four batters while giving up 1 run in the win. Dickey pitched 4 innings giving up four runs and getting the lost in his first ever World Baseball Classic appearance.
Team Mexico came out strong in the 1st inning manufacturing two runs on two hits. Luiz Crus hit a Sac Fly and Adrian Gonzalez adding another RBI on a ground out. Gonzalez wasn’t done producing after that because in his next at bat in the 3rd inning he hit a 2 run home run to put Team Mexico up 4-0. The bottom 3rd of Team USA’s lineup was struggling, not getting a hit in the game and striking out 4 times combined. Mauer, Wright and Rollins each had 2 hits a piece with Hosmer and Braun getting one each. The USA lineup left 20 runners on base and only scored 2 runs. They came out looking flat and looked like they took it too easy. Hopefully after the upset loss they will get a little urgency in their lineup and get some runs going.
They need to come back tonight in the game against 2-0 Italy. Ryan Vogelsong is going to be the starter on the mound for Team USA. This is a must win situation in order for them to advance into the 2nd round of the tournament. The team needs to be able to manufacture runs and play small ball. Most of their players look like they are trying to be the hero and win the game by themselves. Hopefully Joe Torre will get them into shape tonight against the Italians. Tonight’s game is at 9:00 on the MLB Network.
The Minnesota Twins used to be a perennial Central Division Winner, winning the Division 6 times from 2002 to 2010. That was until they have finished 5th each time in the last two years. They still have a great heart of the lineup but there are lacking in the other areas of their lineup as well as pitching. They traded away two very good defensive outfielders in Denard Span and Ben Revere but did get some good pitching in return. One of those is 25 year old Vance Worley who will be their Opening Day starter. I think that they should have kept either Span or Revere to keep the leadoff spot and centerfield position stable for a while. Here is what I think will suit the Twins best throughout this year.
1. CF Darin Mastroianni – doesn’t have much experience in CF or in the league, only 78 games, but is their best option right now.
2. 2nd Jamey Carrol – 39 year old who hit .268 last year but the two years before with LA he hit .290 and .291. Not sure how many more years he has but will give the Twins something to plug in to develop other players such as Brian Dozier, who will get some playing time this season.
3. C Joe Mauer – one of the best players in the league, doesn’t hit for power but knows exactly what to do with the ball and how to do it
4. LF Josh Willingham – a great addition who had a big year last year, 35 HR’s and 110 RBI’s, and was one of the bright spots in the year.
5. 1st Justin Morneau – last year was his first full year back since his concussion and he struggled a bit but showed signs of the Justin Morneau of old, hopefully he will get back to what he was.
6. DH Ryan Doumit – another great addition to the lineup who can play 1st, RF or catch. Will be their DH to start the year but will be a great guy to have with his ability to give Mauer, Morneau and Parmelee breaks without changing the lineup
7. 3rd Trevor Plouffe – another guy who can play multiple positions, 3rd, SS and RF. Hit 24 HR’s last year but didn’t hit them in a timely matter. 18 of the 24 were solo home runs and only 5 of the 24 were after the All Star break.
8. RF Chris Parmelee – only played in 64 games last year and hit .229. He will start in RF but can also play 1st. A good contact hitter that is disciplined and will hit line drives to the gap.
9. SS Pedro Florimon – will be the Twins 8th opening day SS in the last 8 years. Great defensive player that will struggle at the plate.
I think that the Twins are going to stay at the bottom of the AL Central especially with the offseason moves that the Royals and Indians made. Their pitching staff is arguably the worst in the Division even with the addition of Worley. The heart of the order is pretty good but they won’t be able to carry the rest of the lineup.
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In 2012 the Chicago White Sox hired Robin Ventura as their new manager and General Manager Kenny Williams called the season a rebuilding year. Manager Ozzie Guillen was now in Miami and Ace pitcher Mark Buehrle was also there with him. They traded Closer Sergio Santos and starting OF Carlos Quentin, who was a 2011 All Star, while Juan Pierre left for Philadelphia. Even with barely anyone giving them a shot they almost came away with the Central Division title. The White Sox had surprised the Detroit Tigers, who were clear favorites, by leading the race until they lost 10 out of their last 12 games during the season. They were in first place for 126 days out of the season but ended up being three games behind the Tigers who went on to win the AL Pennant. They have a lot of the same guys as last but lost AJ Pierzynski who had arguably his best year last season from behind the plate. Here is what I think would suit the White Sox best for this upcoming year in baseball.
1. CF – Alejandro De Aza – hit .281 last year in 131 games while stealing 26 bases in his first full season in the Majors. Prototypical CF, has a lot of range
2. 3rd – Jeff Keppinger – Career .288 hitter that hit .325 last year in 115 games with Tampa Bay, can play 2nd, 3rd and SS.
3rd. RF – Alex Rios – Hit .304 with 25 home runs last year in 151 games. Good range in RF and a power arm.
4th. DH – Adam Dunn – Huge power bat who came back strong last year after a terrible slump year in 2011. Will strikeout a lot but will make up for them with home runs.
5th. 1st – Paul Konerko – I think he is the best pure hitter on the team, knows what to do with the ball and when to do it. Had a lot of speculation about becoming a player/manager before last years season. I was contemplating about switching Rios and Konerko but ultimately went with Rios, who I think will have a more complete season with power and average.
6th. LF – Dayan Viciedo – 23 year old that hit 25 home runs last year in his first full season.
7th. SS – Alexei Ramirez – Great glove at SS. Hit .290 with 21 home runs in his rookie campaign but in the past two years he hit .269 and .260 with 15 and 9 home runs. Seems to be struggling more at the plate every year.
8th. C – Tyler Flowers – Unproven player that hit .213 last year in 52 games but I’ve heard a lot about his potential. Nervous about a full work load for him.
9th. 2nd – Gordon Beckham – Career .245 hitter with 49 home runs in 4 years. Can play 3rd and 2nd but is a lot better defensively at 2nd. Only had seven errors last year with a .990 fielding percentage.
Chris Sale was a stud on the mound last year and probably will be again this year. Peavy has been fairly good but I think that he is more of a number 3 starter than number 2, especially in the AL. John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana are going to be the rest of the rotation but they are average pitchers at best. Quintana is only going to be in his second year and could work his way up the rotation for next year. Addison Reed was a surprise last year by earning the closer role in his age 23 season. He completed 29 saves in 33 opportunities but did have a 4.75 ERA. I expect this team to struggle due to higher expectations from their overachieving year last year. They seem to have a lot of players who have been inconsistent in the last few years which usually comes down to coaching. Ventura could get things in motion in years to come but I am not seeing it this year, especially with an improving Royals and Indian teams. They will finish fourth in the American League Central Division.
The Kansas City Royals have won the World Series more recently than the Detroit Tigers. That was in 1985. That was also the last time that they have even made the postseason. Since that time they have had 18 top ten draft picks and seven top five draft picks in the last eight years. For that reason they are loaded with young talent that are starting to pop up in the big leagues. Some of those names are Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Aaron Crow. Their whole lineup will be younger than 30 years old on Opening Day.
They have a very nice build of speed and athleticism up the middle and a mix of power bats and power arms in the corners. They also made a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for some much needed starting pitching. Here is a look at the lineup that I think would suit the Royals the best during this season.
1. SS Alcides Escobar – Very fast and sure handed SS that will be able to hit .270-.280 and steal 25+ bags a year
2. CF Lorenzo Cain – Not as good of a hitter or base stealer as Escobar but has tremendous range in Center (Look for Left handed CF Jarrod Dyson to get a lot of swings here in the lineup especially vs. Righties)
3. LF Alex Gordon – Has been the poster child for the Royals since his debut in 2007. One of the best arms from the outfield in the MLB and can do just about anything you ask of him at the plate, will hit .300 with 15-20 home runs.
4. DH Billy Butler – Best hitter on the team, hit .313 last year with 29 HR’s. I could see him winning a batting title at some point in his career, has been doing it since 2007 and is only in his age 27 season.
5. 3rd Mike Moustakas – 24 years old, only hit .246 last year but did have 20 home runs. Good 3rd basemen that will solidify the left side of the field. Should hit for a better average than last year.
6. C Salvador Perez – only 22 years old, lost a lot of time early last year with an injury. In the 76 games he played last year he hit .301 with 11 HR’s. Has great potential and will be the Royals starting catcher for a long time.
7. 1st Eric Hosmer – 23 year old that is great with his glove at 1st base. Is a potential Gold Glove winner that has hit .262 with 33 HR’s and a .730 OPS in his two year career so far.
8. RF Jeff Francouer – 29 year old that will be entering his 9th season in the big leagues. Has a cannon from RF and struggle last year at the plate, hitting .235 with 16 HR’s but the year before he hit .285 with 20 HR’s. I expect he will do better further down in the lineup and with better hitters throughout the lineup to support.
9. 2nd Chris Getz – Former Michigan Wolverine that is the oldest player in the lineup, will turn 30 on August 30th. Never has been a for sure starter in the big leagues, I expect him and Johnny Giavotella to split time with Getz a lefty and Giavotella a righty. Has speed to steal bases and hit .275 last year but has only hit a home run in one season, 2009, when he only hit two.
The new Royals starting five are more solid than they were a year ago. They acquired three new players one of which is going to be their Opening Day starter. Danny Duffy probably won’t make the starting rotation at the beginning of the year but he will make his way into the rotation at some point, he is a very good young prospect. Here is what I think will be their starting rotation over the year.
1. James Shields – Big pick up with Shields, will make the Royals rotation a lot better, former All-Star.
2. Jeremy Guthrie – Traded for him during last season, through 14 games he was 5-3.
3. Ervin Santana – Acquired him in a trade from the Angels, was 9-13 last year but has a 96-80 career record. Is usually hit or miss during the season.
4. Wade Davis – another guy they picked up with Shields. Got pushed out of the rotation last year because of Matt Moore. Was 3-0 in 54 games with a 2.43 ERA.
5. Bruce Chen – led the team in wins last year with 11 but had 14 losses. 12-8 the year before.
They will not be the best rotation in the division but they look a lot better than last year. I expect the Royals to finish 3rd in the AL Central, hanging in the top for a while but then falling out of the race late in the year. I do expect them to be getting a lot better and contending in the next few years though. But that is what 20 years of top picks should do.
The Cleveland Indians started last year leading the American League Central division through 40 games with a 23-17 record. Through 81 games last year the Cleveland Indians were 42-39, being two ahead of the Detroit Tigers and two behind the Chicago White Sox. They were still in a good spot for the rest of the season and were a surprise team that could potentially win the division. They went on for the rest of the year only winning 26 games and losing 55 to finish in fourth place with a 68-94 record, only two games ahead of the pitiful Minnesota Twins.
They had some spurts were they were good but could not get consistent. Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and Chris Perez were some bright spots of the club but they just didn’t have enough to take advantage of a weak AL Central. This year is going to be a different story. They have brought in some very good players that will make them a better team and a legitimate contender for the AL Central Title.
They came out this winter with one of the biggest moves of this offseason by hiring Terry Francona as their Manager. They then acquired Bret Myers, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds through free agency. They made a big trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Indians traded away RF Shin-Soo Choo with IF Jason Donald and acquired CF Drew Stubbs, the 3rd pick in the 2011 draft RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Matt Albers and RHP Bryan Shaw. Most recently, the Indians made a big splash and signed CF Michael Bourn who was a number three rated free agent during this offseason. Bourn and Stubbs give the Indians two more outfielders that can run very well on the base paths. Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley will also give the Indians a group of players that can wreak havoc in the running game.
This is the projected lineup that I believe would suit the Indians best.
1. CF – Michael Bourn – Hit .274 last year with 44 stolen bases. Arguably the best defensive CF in the league.
2. 2nd – Jason Kipnis – Has power and speed, will be able to get a lot of fastballs with Bourn on the base paths.
3. SS – Asdrubal Cabrera – Very good switch hitter that will benefit a lot from Bourn and Kipnis in front of him.
4. DH – Nick Swisher – Another switch hitter that shows some power, good arm in RF and can play 1st.
5. C – Carlos Santana – A below average arm behind the plate but makes up for it with the bat, yet another switch hitter in this lineup.
6. 1st – Mark Reynolds – Has a ton of raw power but won’t get on very much and will strike out a lot, has led the league 4 times in strikeouts.
7. LF – Michael Brantley – played CF last year and has good speed and great range.
8. 3rd – Lonnie Chisenhall – Will finally not have to split time at 3rd, young player with good potential.
9. RF – Drew Stubbs – Good defensive outfielder, struggled last year at the plate but has a lot of speed on the base paths.
This lineup will not have a great batting average but it has good mix and match of speed and power. Their ability to run the bases will get them in position so the big guys can hit them in. I expect them to finish 2nd in the AL Central with the player additions and a great coach. They will have a pretty good defensive team with Cabrera and Kipnis up the middle in the infield. Bourn, Stubbs and Brantley are very good defensive outfielders who usually play CF and then Swisher has a great arm to add to that. They will not have a problem no matter who they put in the outfield. Mike Aviles is another good addition that will be coming off the bench to play 3rd, SS or 2nd base. He can run and plays very good defense, will be a great guy to have for small ball when it is needed. I expect the Indians will be the second best team in the AL Central and will compete for the division title.