Welcome to the official OuttaTownClowns MLB Preview for the 2010 season. We will be going from team to team and division by division looking at who has a chance to make history come October. I do not think I could be much more excited about the upcoming season, and my team, the Indians, does not even have a shot at the playoffs, so I can only imagine how anxious fans of winning teams are to get the Show on the road. We could start anywhere, but let’s start in the National League where there are four teams who could win it, but one for whom not winning it would be a complete failure. Let’s get it.
National League East
1. Philadelphia Phillies Projected Record: 98-64
Batting: A | Starting Pitching: A- | Relief Pitching B+ | Defense/Speed/Other: A-
The Phillies are the favorites to win the division, and rightfully so. After a World Series appearance last year, the Phillies did not sit back on their laurels. As you know if you watched a minute of Sportscenter in the week it happened, Roy Halladay is now with the Phils, replacing Cliff Lee as the ace. People ask why not keep Cliff and Halladay and dominate everyone for a year, and it is a legitimate question. The Phillies felt that they may not be able to sign either long term if they waited until the end of the year with both so it came down to one or the other, and they chose Halladay.I am not sure how much of an upgrade Halladay is over Lee, but he is a little bit better. Still, if it comes October and Halladay is not up to snuff in the playoffs, something that would be a shock to all, people will start wanting Clifford the Big Red Lee back.
Although Roy Halladay was their biggest acquisition, the Phillies also quietly picked up Placido Polanco, arguably the best defensive second basemen of the decade, to play third giving them a Polanco-Rollins-Utley-Howard infield. Three of those guys are gold glove caliber and Howard has been improving his defense from horrible to somewhat serviceable. It gets no less dangerous for opposing pitchers in the outfield with Ibanez in left, Victorino in center and Werth in right. The only less that B grade bat in the entire lineup is that of Carlos Ruiz and the starting pitcher, but Ruiz’s defense more than makes up for his lack of pop.
Manuel likes to play with his lineup, but I have it looking something like this:
- Rollins (6)
- Victorino (8)
- Utley (4)
- Howard (3)
- Ibanez (7)
- Werth (9)
- Ruiz (2)
- Polanco (5)
- Starting Pitcher (1)
If you are a starting pitcher, do you want to face that? That’s what I thought. What is probably scarier is that their defense is top notch as well, and though the pitching staff is putting a lot on Joe Blanton, the Halladay-Hamels combo should anchor the top very well and with Happ and Moyer/Contreras at the back of the rotation, the Phillies should not have too much of a problem making the playoffs, and in my opinion, winning the division.
One thing for the Phanatics to be worried about is Brad Lidge. Remember when Albert Pujols went NASA on him in Houston and he went in the tank for the next year? I would not be overly shocked to see it happen again after his World Series performance. He could be a speed bump on what should be an otherwise smooth ride. For the record, I still wish the call on that play was “Houston, you have a problem, and his name is Albert Pujols”. Sorry Mr. Lidge, I gotta show this again.
2. Atlanta Braves Projected Record: 86-76
Batting: B | Starting Pitching: B+ | Relief Pitching: B- | Defense/Speed/Other: B-
The Braves do not grade out as well as the Mets on paper, but I hae a good feeling about the Tomahawk Choppers. The Braves were fairly quiet in free agency, but that more had to do with their young talent maturing than their indifference. They still have their core of Chipper and Brian McCann, but the rest of the roster is filled with guys I really like to mature this year. This is sort of a risky pick because it is depending on a lot to go right but I am sticking by it. If Chipper Jones can put together something resembling a decent year, unlike last year, and Melky Cabrera can step in and justify starting over Matt Diaz in left, then the Braves could sneak up on everyone. Martin Prado is quietly very very good and Troy Glaus at first has always made more sense than Troy Glaus at third. The lineup should look something like:
- McLouth (8)
- Prado (4)
- Jones (5)
- Glaus (3)
- McCann (2)
- Escobar (6)
- Heyward (9)
- Cabrera (7)
- Starting Pitcher (1)
This brings us nicely to Jason Heyward. What can I say about him that has not already been said? Huge bat, one of the better prospects in baseball, patient (unlike a lot of young power hitters), and is more than capable defensively. He should be all over your radar when you watch a Braves game if for no other reason than his freakish ability. I like the way this lineup sets up. It is not intimidating, but it works well. McLouth is a really good leadoff guy, Prado is a prototype 2 hitter, if Chipper is on he is an ideal 3 hitter, Glaus is a clean-up guy, McCann has a good bat in the 5 hole, Yunel Escobar can hit 6 and set up Heyward at 7 and Melky at 8. It sets up very nicely despite lacking some of the big names the Phillies or Mets have.
The rotation is somewhat similar to the lineup in lacking the big names but looking very good. Obviously they have a big name at the top in Tommy Hanson, but after that it is the outstanding Jair Jurrjens, an underrated Tim Hudson, the still-consistent Derek Lowe, and the young but full-of-potential Kenshin Kawakami and Kris Medlen. I am not sure if any of these guys is a straight up ace at the various points in their careers, but all are very solid guys who I would gladly give the ball to for my team.
The bullpen could be a concern with the departure of twin studs Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, but it is extremely hard to judge a bullpen on paper. Just look at the Giants last year. No one thought they had what it took in the pen, but they ended up having one of the better bullpens in the majors. I like Peter Moylan setting up Billy Wagner a lot and I think the Braves have enough bullpen arms to fill the holes in the rest of the pen.
3. Florida Marlins Projected Record: 85-79
Batting: B- | Starting Pitching: B+ | Relief Pitching: C- | Defense/Speed/Other: B+
If the Marlins were in the Central, I might have them in second, but this is a tough division to be in when your payroll is not really high. I really like the Marlins as a sleeper pick this year because they give me every reason to like them. Their rotation includes one of the best young pitchers in the game in Josh Johnson, a former stud in Ricky Nolasco, a guy who has shown flashes of brilliance in Anibal Sanchez, and young guys with a lot of potential in Chris Volstad and Sean West. Every few years the Marlins sneak up and kill people and I would not be at all surprised if this was that year. They have the best young player in the game in Hanley Ramirez, a couple of stud prospects with a shot at a starting job, strong starting pitching and bunch of young guys who just play. If Cameron Maybin is ready, then watch out. The relievers could get in their way, but it is often hard to judge bullpens. There are a few different opinions on what the lineup should look like, but I have:
- Coghlan (7)
- Maybin (8)
- Ramirez (6)
- Cantu (5)
- Uggla (4)
- Ross (9)
- G. Sanchez (3)
- Baker (2)
- Starting Pitcher
G. Sanchez is Gaby Sanchez, a 26 year old with pop who should get some regular playing time since the Marlins are not the deepest team around. If he thrives, and Cameron Maybin lives up to his considerable hype, The Marlins could very easily go nuts and get second with a shot at the wild card. Fear the fish in 2010.
4. New York Mets Projected Record: 79-83
Batting: B+ | Starting Pitching: B | Relief Pitching: B+ | Defense/Speed/Other: B+
On paper the Mets should compete for the NL East crown. Unfortunately for Mets fans everywhere, the official surface of baseball is grass, not paper. Can Reyes stay healthy? Beltran? Johan Santana? Will Citi Field make David Wright’s power numbers crash harder than Citi Bank itself? Can Oliver Perez stop being psychotic and develop some kind of consistency? Can John Maine and Mike Pelfrey stay healthy? Will Jeff Francoeur go back to being productive? Will Jason Bay keep up his stellar play in the vacuums better knowns as the gaps in left and right center? If the answers to ALL of these are in the affirmative, then the Mets will crush everyone. However, no one thinks all of these will happen, least of all Oliver Perez and the health issues that are at almost every position for the Mets. How can a Mets fan have any confidence in this season with that many question marks? If healthy and clicking they are one of the best teams in baseball, but they are rarely all healthy and may not be clicking when crunch time comes. I like their lineup a little different from how certain projection sites have it:
- Reyes (6)
- Castillo (4)
- Wright (5)
- Bay (7)
- Beltran (8)
- Francoeur (9)
- Murphy (3)
- Santos (2)
- Starting Pitcher (1)
With Beltran out for opening day, it will clearly not be their lineup on opening day, but rather what it will probably look like for much of the season. Again, it is very nice on paper, but you could give me 8-1 odds on Reyes, Beltran, and Santana not getting injured for extended stints and I would not take it. Should be standard torture for the Mets, though. If anyone was suited to deal with a good team and knowing they will not win, the order goes 1. Cubs fans, 2. Indians fans, 3. Mets fans. This is, of course, little consolation to Mets fans, but do not expect too much this year.
5. Washington Nationals Projected Record: 57-105
Batting: C+ | Starting Pitching: F | Relief Pitching: D+ | Defense/Speed/Other: C
Stephen Strasburg. That is all that Nats fans have to look forward to this year, especially from their pitching staff. Looking at their roster I had a hard time picking out five starters. John Lannan will once again be the ace with Jason Marquis adding a somewhat respectable arm behind him, but neither of those guys is a sure bet and only Strasburg is really a guy to strike fear in opposing hitters. If you are a Nationals fan, you are just waiting on Bryce Harper and for pigs to fly. Lucky for them, Harper and Strasburg are the kinds of guys who can make pigs fly they are so talented. However, until then the Nationals only have Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn to comfort them. I do not expect a repeat performance out of Nyjer Morgan and Elijah Dukes, though also incredibly talented, will probably go to waste yet again. If everything goes right, the Nationals could have a pretty decent offense, but the pitching will still be atrocious. The lineup does not look bad though:
- Morgan (8)
- Guzman (6)
- Zimmerman (5)
- Dunn (3)
- Dukes (9)
- Willingham (7)
- Flores (2)
- Kennedy (4)
- Starting Pitcher (1)
That is a fairly respectable lineup I guess, but the pitching is probably the worst in the majors. I need you to be honest with yourself for this next segment. How many of these guys have you heard of: John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Scott Olsen, JD Martin, Shairon Martis. No, it is not the members of a band called The Suck-A-Lots, it is the projected rotation for the Nationals according to CBS (as found here). The worst. At least they can run and play a little defense or things could get pretty bad in DC this year.
Fake Divisional Awards
Best Statistical Year: Hanley Ramirez
Division MVP: Chase Utley
Division Cy Young: Roy Halladay
Biggest Disappointment: New York Mets
Young Player to Watch: Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg