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Tag Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

Let’s Make a Deal!

Well, it’s summer! It’s time for beer, picnics, beaches, saying good-bye to the recently-traded athletes, and saying hello to the newcomers to the world of Chicago sports. Yes, it’s that magical time of year when professional athletes are being traded like Pogs.

Pictured: Your age

Pictured: Your age

Yes, change is coming to the world of Windy City sports! This square dance of players and teams is a lot to keep up with, so let’s start with the best news of all, shall we?

Chicago Baseball

Thus far, the best news to come out of the wheeling and dealing of the trade game is that Carlos Marmol is almost the new problem of the Dodgers. The terrible relief pitcher and constant annoyance to Cubs’ fans is likely to be traded to Los Angeles unless he plays all of his six team rejections; if he does this he can become a free agent at the end of the season. However, it looks like the era of Marmol blowing it in the ninth inning is coming to an end. The darkness is over. The sun will come out tomorrow.

The truest thing ever put on Wikipedia ever.

The truest thing ever put on Wikipedia ever.

The Cubs also traded Scott Feldman and pitcher Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. The White Sox, desperate to shake up their roster and get back to winning, signed outfielder Micker Adolfo Zapata, a sixteen-year-old from the Dominican Republic.

Chicago Bulls

 

Oh my God, you guys! I'm staying with the Bulls!

Oh my God, you guys! I’m staying with the Bulls!

Nazr Mohammed tweeted today that, essentially, he has gotten a verbal agreement with the Chicago Bulls and that he will be re-signed to Chicago. The fates of Luol Deng and Nate Robinson are still uncertain. However, it looks as though Deng will stay in Chicago while Robinson will be forced to find a home elsewhere in the NBA.

"Come 'ere, buddy. We're all gonna miss you."

“Come ‘ere, buddy. We’re all gonna miss you.”

The trade doesn’t quiet the rumors of friction in the power structure of the Bulls, however. The Bulls did not re-sign Ron Adams, Tom Thibodeau’s top assistant, when his contract expired. The rumor buzzing through the Internet is that there was friction between superstar coach Thibodeau and his assistant; meanwhile, General Manager Gar Forman assures there is no friction between Thibodeau and himself. Though friction between the higher-ups can create great success, just as the tension between Phil Jackson and General Manager Jerry Krause birthed the success of the Bulls in the nineties. Time will tell how this wheeling-and-dealing within the Bulls power structure will affect the Bulls.

Also, Derrick Rose is scheduled to play this season. So. we’ll see how that plays out.

Chicago Blackhawks

This fun is over, Bolly.

This fun is over, Bolly.

Well, with Bolland and Frolik hitting the happy trail to Canada, it’s clear that General Manager Stan Bowman is jumping quickly to preserve the Blackhawks’ impeccable roster of knock-down, drag-out talent. With a spectacular 2013 season, we are all hoping that Bryan Bickell will live up to the high expectations of fans and to the hard-earned contract extension. The NHL draft allowed for Bowman to give up Bolland and Frolik and fourth and fifth round picks for a pick in the second through fifth rounds. This also allowed the Blackhawks a fourth and fifth round pick in 2014 and four more years of Bickell. The fresh faces on the Blackhawks roster are looking spectacular and show that the Blackhawks are determined to tighten up their defensive line, a problem that brought them serious losses in the regular season and the playoffs. None of this guarantees a 2014 Stanley Cup victory, but Bowman is building one hell of a team to debut in October.

Let's hear it for the boy!

Let’s hear it for the boy!

With two of Chicago’s favorites leaving the team, let’s celebrate the superstar who was a big reason as to why the Stanley Cup is out and about partying with Patrick Kane: Bryan Bickell. Snag this Bryan Bickell player tee from our website (http://tinyurl.com/qjeq32m) and show your joy for the rough and tough left wing returning to the Blackhawks for another four years. It’s tough to see our favorites leave, but it’s better when the best stay because sports is good!

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MLB: MLB Players Who Could be Traded During the 2012 Offseason:

With Free Agents Jake Peavy (Chicago White Sox) and David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) resigning with their respected teams, the MLB Free Agency pool seems quite limited but there’s still a few significant players to watch this offseason as the Free Agency period gets underway. Below are a list of the top free-agents and which team I feel they will sign with during the offseason:

1. Zach Greinke: (Los Angeles Angles): With Zack Greinke being the only elite level pitcher on the Free Agent Market, there’s no question that he will be the most sought after free agent this winter. The 2009 Cy-Young Award winner will have numerous teams interested in signing him during the offseason and that list will start with Greinke’s 2012 Team: the Los Angeles Angeles. With Bobby Abreu, Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, and Ervin Santana off their payroll, I feel the Angels will have the necessary money they need to resign Zack Greinke to the biggest Pitcher contract this offseason. The other teams that would be interested in signing Zack Greinke this offseason are the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals.

2. Josh Hamilton: (Washington Nationals): The Nationals already feature a sold core of hitters (Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman) but have been looking for an additional left-handed impact bat to add to their lineup so they can be that much more deeper from both sides of the plate. If the Nationals were able to sign Hamilton, then they could move Morse from the outfield to First Base and feature one of the best offensive and defensive outfields in Hamilton, Harper, and Werth. In addition to the Nationals, I feel the Baltimore Orioles and Hamilton’s current team, the Texas Rangers, would still be interested in bringing him back to Texas.

3. Michael Bourn: (Philadelphia Phillies): The Braves would love to bring back the 2-Time All-Star and Gold-Glove winner however it seems unlikely they would be able to afford his reported asking price. With the Phillies dropping almost 40 million dollars from

last years and in addition to trading 2 of the teams 3 starting outfielder from last years team, I feel Philly will be one of the most active teams during

the offseason. Other teams that will look to sign Michael Bourn are his former team, Atlanta Braves along with the Washington Nationals if there unable to sign Josh Hamilton.

4.  AJ Pierzynski: (Texas Rangers): At 35 (and soon to be 36 years old) the 2-Time All-Star Catcher had his best statistical season of his career winning his first silver slugger award and still looked to be at the top of his game. With that said, as much as Pierzynski has ment to the White Sox organization, it seems like the White Sox have decided to go younger and start last year backup catcher Tyler Flowers. Flowers proved last season that he can do a solid job at calling a game in addition to having a great deal of power from the catcher position. I feel the Rangers will sign Pierzynski who has proven to be a much more durable catcher behind the plate than 2011 Ranger Mike Napoli (Napoli has never caught 760 innings in a season while Pierzynski has caught 1,000 Plus innings 11 times in his career). The other teams that also might look to sign Pierzynski this offseason are the Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

In addition to the Free Agency Process, there’s 5 other significant players that I feel will be mentioned in a number of trade rumors this offseason.

Alex Rodriguez: (New York Yankees): The Yankees expensive 3rd Baseman had another injury plagued season and showed that he’s still having some durability issues as A-Rod hasn’t played in 140 games in season since the 2007 season and in three of those season he played in under 125 games. Even with all his injuries and problems throughout the MLB Playoffs, I still feel A-Rod will be a Yankee when the 2013 season starts. On the other hand, will the Yankees at-least test the Trade Market… absolutely. So which teams will the Yankees talk with A-Rod about: before the Blockbuster Trade on Tuesday I would have said the Miami Marlins, but now I feel there’s only two teams that would consider trading for the former 3-Time AL MVP Winner: Chicago White Sox (however, with Rick Hahn now the GM, the White Sox might have a new perspective on A-Rod) and drs. In the end, I feel Rodriguez will once again be in Yankee Pinstripes when the 2013 Baseball season begins.

Chase Headley: (San Diego Padres): The Padres have a ton of solid prospects in their organization and with the Giants, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks in their division, I’m not sure there ready to win now so I feel they should look to trade their best asset; Chase Headley. Headley had by far his best season, Hitting .286, to go along with 31 Home Runs and an NL High 115 RBI’s while playing in arguably the toughest hitting ballpark in all of baseball and because of this he’s a finalist for the 2012 NL MVP Award. In addition to having such a great season, Headley is just hitting his prime (28 years old) and has 3 more Arbitration Eligible Seasons left on his contract. Because of his age, contract status, the chances of him replicating this season and the state of this franchise, I feel the Padres should look to trade Chase Headley this offseason. Some of the places that have enough assets to acquire Headley and look to trade for him are the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, and the Oakland Athletics. In the end, I feel the Padres will ask for too much and not trade the 28 year old 3rd Baseman whose also proven he can play First Base and Left Field.

Gavin Floyd: (Milwaukee BrewersWith White Sox 2012 Third Baseman Kevin Youkilis most likely departing from the South Side of Chicago this offseason, its very clear that the Chicago White Sox have a significant void to fill at the hot corner that they’ll look fill via a Trade (the Free-Agent Market is quite thin). With that said, a number of teams are looking for veteran pitchers that haven’t had any significant injuries in the past. Fortunately, Floyd fits the criteria as he’s thrown over 180 innings for of the past 5 seasons showing that he can take the ball at any time. Because of this, I feel the White Sox will either trade Floyd straight up for a 3rd Baseman or trade Floyd for a number of prospects that they can then flip the prospects for a third baseman. I feel the White Sox number one option would be moving Floyd and a few other prospects for either top prospects Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals) or Mike Olt (Texas Rangers). So why would Texas or Washington be in such a hurry to trade one of their top prospects? Because both teams have a log jam at third base in Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) and Adrian Beltre (Ranges). Zimmerman, (who agreed to a new contract last offseason), and Beltre, (who hit .321 to along with 36 Homers and 102 RBI and has 4 more years left on his contract) might feel they don’t need one of these elite level prospects and instead might look to acquire a quality veteran pitcher. Both teams have the two different options for these two players: either move one of the top prospects in baseball so they can fill other holes on their roster or have them change positions because nethor will be playing 3rd Base in the near future. In the end, do I foresee the White Sox acquiring one of these two young 3rd Base prospects…no and because of this I feel they will trade Floyd to the Milwaukee Brewers for a number of prospects to help improve their farm system. With that in mind, I also feel the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Texas Rangers will also make a run at Floyd.

Matt Garza: (Chicago Cubs): The Cubs 28 year old right hander had an up and 2012 season that unfortunately ended with him on the DL from July 21st until the completion of the Season. With Garza being in the prime of his career, a proven winner, and having no significant injuries in the past, its a forgone conclusion that a number of teams will look to trade for Garza this offseason. So what teams will look to trade for Garza? I feel the list for Garza will include the Baltimore Orioles, AL Champion Detroit TigersKansas City Royals (who feature a great Bullpen and Offense but need to upgrade their starting rotation), New York Yankees, and Texas Rangers. In the end, I think Garza will start the season with the Cubs so they can show he’s recovered from his triceps injury and then decide wither or not to trade him depending on where the Cubs are in the standings around the July 31st Trade Deadline.

Please share your responses and follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ClarkStSports), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/clarkstreetsports), Pinterest(http://pinterest.com/clarkstsports/), Google Plus (Clark Street Sports), and now Flickr(http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkstreetsports). Remember to also check out our merchandise at http://www.clarkstreetsports.com/

 
 

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MLB: The AL Central featured the best starting pitching over the past 8 years…but what about now?

Can you name the only division that’s had 6 of the past 8 AL Cy Young Award Winners? If you guessed the American League Central you’d be right. A large number of people feel the American League Central is a below average division shown by the number of Pennant (2005 Chicago White Sox and 2006 Detroit Tigers) and World Series winners (2005 Chicago White Sox) during those 8 years. Even though only 2 of the 5 teams from this division reached the World Series, it still doesn’t take away from the quality of arms that were thrown out during this 8 year span.

So for all those wondering, the 5 different pitchers (6 overall as one player won the award twice), who won this award from the AL Central were Johan Santana (20042006), CC Sabathia (2007), Cliff Lee (2008), Zack Greinke (2009), and Justin Verlander (2011). An even more astonishing stat then that four of the five teams (Chicago White Sox) had at-least one player win a Cy Young Award during this amazing stretch. In addition to that, only 1 of the 5 players is still on the team they won their Cy Young Award with: 2011 winner Justin Verlander. The teams from the American and National East might of receive the most attention over the past decade, but it was the AL Central that routinely threw out the best pitchers each day.

That was the past, what about now? Which division has the best starting pitching in baseball? Below is a breakdown each division’s starting staff’s from worst to best.

6. NL Central: Over the past decade, the National League has seen a number of quality arms come through this division (Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Roy Oswalt, Rodger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Zach Greinke) but all of them have one thing in common: there no longer in the NL Central. So who are a few of the top starting pitchers as of now: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Adam Wainwright (2010 All-Star), Kyle Lohse, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, A.J. Burnett, and Yovani Gallardo (2010 All-Star). All of the pitchers mentioned in the previous sentence are quality starting pitchers but not elite as shown in the 2 combined All-Star Game appearances.

5. AL Central: What used to be the division with the best starting pitching in baseball has since turned into a division with a few quality starters. Even with Santana, Sabathia, Lee, and Greinke leaving this division, the AL Central is still led by three excellent arms in Justin Verlander (2011 AL Cy Young Award winner), Jake Peavy (2007 NL Cy Young Award Winner), and Chris Sale (2012 All-Star). In addition to those three individuals, the AL Central also has Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Justin Masterson, and Scott Diamond. This list doesn’t come close to the quality of arms that the AL Central had in the past but it’s not that a bad list of starters.

4. AL East: I know the majority of people believe that because the Red Sox and Yankees it should equate to making the AL East the best at everything, but if you look at the starting pitchers in the other division’s, its easy to realize the AL East doesn’t have nearly the quality of starters that make up the other three divisions. The two elite pitchers in the AL East are CC Sabathia (2007 Cy Young Award Winner) and David Price (3 time All-Star). However, the reason this division is ranked fourth (and not 5th or 6th) is due to the depth of quality starters in this division which includes Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Jeremy Hellickson (2011 AL Rookie of the Year), James Shields (2011 All-Star), Matt Moore, Wei-Yin Chen, Clay Buchholz (2010 time All-Star), Josh Beckett (3 time All-Star), Ricky Romero (2011 All-Star), and Brandon Morrow. There’s bunch of solid pitchers in the AL East but not enough Ace’s to put make this one of the top three divisions for best starting pitching in baseball.

3. NL West: I went back and forth when deciding the three best starting pitching divisions in all of baseball but in the end I decided to put the NL West third on my list. At the beginning of my article, I mentioned that 6 of the past 8 Cy Young Award winners came from the AL Central which was most within that timeframe. However, during those same 8 years, the NL West saw 5 of 8 and 10 of the past 13 NL Cy-Young winners come from this division. As impressive as that is, like the AL Central, the majority of the previous winners have moved on from their this division as Tim Lincecum (2008 and 2009) and Clayton Kershaw (2011) are the lone Cy-Young winners who are still on a NL West Team. In addition to those two pitchers, the NL West also has one of (if not the most) underrated pitchers in all of baseball in Matt Cain who threw a perfect game this year in addition to not allowing an earned run during the 2010 MLB Playoffs as he helped lead the Giants to their first World Series Championship in over 50 years. Aside from those three pitchers, the National League West also includes Ryan Vogelsong (2011 All-Star), Madison Bumgarner, Chad Billingsley (2009 All-Star), Wade Miley (2012 All-Star), Trevor Cahill (2010 All-Star), and Ian Kennedy. This division currently has the third best starting pitching in all of baseball but in about 2 years, I believe the NL West will feature the best starting pitching in baseball.

2. NL East: The NL East is a division that’s made up of both younger and older elite starters. The NL East has 3 former Cy Young Award winners: Roy Halladay (2003 and 2010), Johan Santana (2004 and 2006), and Cliff Lee (2010) along with a number of other Ace’s. Included in the next line of starting pitchers from the NL East areStephen Strasburg (2012 All-Star), Gio Gonzalez (2 time All-Star), Jordan Zimmerman, Tim Hudson (3 time All-Star), Tommy Hanson, R.A. Dickey (All-Star 2012), Cole Hamels (3 time All-Star), Mark Buehrle (4 time All-Star), and Josh Johnson (2 time All-Star). Its pretty remarkable to see the amount of All-Stars that are apart of this division as over the past few seasons this has transformed into one of the best divisions for starting pitching in all of baseball.

1. AL West: As impressive as the starters in the NL East are, I still feel the division that features the best starers in all of baseball is the American League West. As of now, the AL West has 2 former Cy Young Award winners in Zack Greinke (2009) and Felix Hernandez (2010) along with the frontrunner for the 2012 AL Cy Young Award in Jarred Weaver who threw a no hitter earlier this season. Along with those three hitters, the American League West (which unlike the other divisions has only 4 teams until next year) also includes Yu Darvish (2012 All-Star), Ryan Dempster (2 time All-Star), Matt Harrison (2012 All-Star), Brandon McCarthyC.J. Wilson (2 time All-Star), Dan Haren (3 time All-Star), and Jason Vargas. In addition to the names listed above, the AL West has a number of young and exciting arms in the minors that will be household name within the next few years in Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, Jarrod Parker, Danny Hultzen, and Taijuan Walker. With the majority of these starters still in their prime, I feel the AL West will continue to be known as one of the best divisions in baseball.

Please share your responses and follow us on Twitter(https://twitter.com/ClarkStSports), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/clarkstreetsports), Pinterest(http://pinterest.com/clarkstsports/), Google Plus (Clark Street Sports), and now Flickr(http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkstreetsports). Remember to also check out our merchandise at http://www.clarkstreetsports.com/

 

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Merchandise of all 30 MLB Teams

Make sure to order Merchandise of your favorite MLB teams before the All-Star Game so your ready for the Mid-Summer Classic. At Clark Street Sports, we sell Hats, Jackets, Jerseys, Sweatshirts and T-Shirts of each MLB Team. Our customers have the option of personalizing their own t-shirt and jersey or creating merchandise with no name or number on the back. There’s a great variety of merchandise to choose from so make sure you order your MLB products before All-Star Weekend is here.

Please share your responses and follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ClarkStSports), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/clarkstreetsports), Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/clarkstsports/), Google Plus (Clark Street Sports), and now Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkstreetsports). Remember to also check out our merchandise at http://www.clarkstreetsports.com/

 

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MLB Top 5 Teams

I know that the season is young and just one month in, but I felt it was a good time to look at who I feel are the 5 best teams in the early parts of the shortened baseball season.

5. St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have the fourth best record in baseball (and have a better record then two of the teams listed below (Nationals and Braves), but I still have a few questions about this team before I place them higher on this list. As everyone knows, St. Louis had a crazy offseason (celebrating a World Series, lost one of the best players of All-Time, and then signed Carlos Beltran) but quietly got off to a great start this season. After one month, the Cardinals rank 1st (as a team) in baseball in runs and on baseball percentage and second in the league in batting average. So how are the Cardinals doing all of this without Albert Pujols? St. Louis has been able to do this with a consistent offense, as they have a different player at each of the top major categories: Average (John Jay), Home Runs (Carlos Beltran), and RBI’s (David Freese). It’s amazing that not one of these players listed on above is one of the team’s top hitters from last year (Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman), and yet they still rank as one of the best offense’s in all of baseball. Even more amazing with the Cardinals is that the teams number one and two starters have been ineffective so far (Chris Carpenter has been on the DL and Adam Wainwright has an ERA of 6.75 on the season) and are still a top 5 team. St. Louis has been able to receive a great amount of help from the other starters in their rotation which includes: Jame Garcia (2-1 and a 2.78 ERA), Jake Westbrook (3-2 with a 2.12 ERA), Kyle Lohse (4-0 with a 1.62 ERA), and fill-in Lance Lynn (5-0 to go along with a 1.60 ERA).

Will this continue? Yes, I do feel the Cardinals will continue their solid play and will be at the top of the National League Central when the May ends. Why do I feel this way? Because I believe they feature a good veteran led roster that will continue to only get healthier as the season goes on.

4. Washington Nationals: The Nationals felt they had one of the best young pitching staff’s in all of baseball, however, I’m just not sure they thought it would all come together so quickly. At the end of the 2011 season, Washington decided to have Stephen Strasburg make a few starts at the end of the 2011 season to see what the Strasburg-Zimmerman combination would look like in the future. After the season, the Nationals needed a young left-handed starter that would be able to pitch alongside the two young righties they already feature on their roster. In late December, they Nationals were able to add this player to their roster by trading for 2011 All-Star Gio Gonzalaez. With those three pitchers intact, the Nationals decided to add a veteran to the mix by signing Edwin Jackson to add depth to their roster. As the season was starting, Washington realized that they featured a really good young 5 man rotation when 5th starter Ross Detwiler got off to a great start and has arguably been the teams best pitcher in the early part of the season. This is one of the few teams in baseball that features an entire rotation that’s under 30 years old: Edwin Jackson (28), Ross Detwiler (26), Gio Gonzalez (26), Jordan Zimmerman (25), and Stephen Strasburg (23). As good as their starting pitching’s been so far, the teams bullpen and hitting haven’t been nearly as successful. A few of the National hitters have had good years (Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Ian Desmond) but they need for others player to step up and for those three to continue their play as of late.

Will this continue? I feel the Nats will continue to feature a good record but I’m not sure if they can continue this throughout the entire summer and into the fall. With that said, Washington’s offense will be much better in the future as they’ve decided to bring up top prospect Bryce Harper and will soon have one of the teams best hitters returning in Michael Morse (who had a .303 Average, 31 Home Runs, and 95 RBI’s on the season). Washington should have a great young pitching staff to go along a solid lineup that will compete with teams in the future. Washington is a team that will be there for the longevity of the season; however, I’m not sure if their ready to compete for a playoff spot and play into October.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers had a great end to the 2011 season and have continued this into the 2012 season. Many felt that Matt Kemp should have won the 2011 National League MVP Award (finished 2nd to Ryan Braun) and but has proven that it’s only motivated him to be better than ever as he’s had an incredible start to the 2012 season (.411 Average, 12 Home Runs, and 25 RBI’s). In addition to Kemp, the man who bats behind him, Andre Ethier (.287 Average, 6 Home Runs, and 27 RBI’s (which leads all of baseball)) have combined to form one of the best right-left combinations in baseball. The rest of the Dodgers team has been productive this year being in the top 1/3 in batting average (10th) and top 1/2 in runs (14th) but its Ethier and Kemp who have turned the Dodgers into such a good offense. As for their pitching staff, the five of them have been productive all season long featuring a combined 3.45 team ERA on the season. The starting rotation includes the reigning CY Young Award winner in Clayton Kershaw, who once again got off to another solid start (2-0 with a 2.63 ERA). As good as Kershaw is and has been, if the Dodgers want to win the National League West and be a contender for a World Series, they know they need to receiver help from other places. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they’ve received great pitching from all of their starting pitchers which include Ted Lilly (3-0 and a 1.38 ERA), Chad Billingsley (2-1 with a 3.22 ERA), and Chris Capuano (3-0 and a 2.73 ERA).

Will this continue? I don’t see why not. The Dodgers have the best hitter in baseball, the one of the best pitcher’s in baseball, along with a few other MLB Players on their roster (Ethier, Loney, Gordon, Lilly, Billingsley, Jansen, and Guerra). In the end, I believe the Dodgers will be a playoff team and with their new ownership grouo will look to add another pitcher at the deadline.

2. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays made an incredible run in 2011 by coming out of nowhere and making the playoff as a Wild Card winner. Unlike the 2010 offseason, Tampa Bay knew that the majority of their roster would stay intact or improve for the 2012 season as they only had a few free agents after the 2011 season. As for their roster, the Rays feature an incredible 5 man rotation that includes Jeremy Hellickson, David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Moore as it seems that you never get a night off when facing this Rays pitching staff. Like the Nationals, Tampa Bay has a staff that only features one starting pitcher above 30 years old (Shields is 30), as the other are all below 30: Niemann (29), Price (26), Hellickson (25), and Moore (22). Lastly, their offense, has one of the best third basemen in all of baseball (Evan Longoria) to go along with B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce, Carlos Pena, Desmond Jennings, and Ben Zobrist.

Will this continue: If the offense is able to continue their ways with Longoria on the DL for a few weeks, then yes, if not, then it will be tough. The Rays are a team that usaualy doesn’t depend on great offense as they instead rely on pitching and defense so yes, I do feel they will be in the thick of things as the season continues.

1. Texas Rangers: There are a lot of good teams this year, however, there’s one team that seems to be head and shoulders above the others: the two time defending American League Champion Texas Rangers. First, the Rangers lineup is as good as ever with 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton (.381 Average, 9 Home Runs, and 26 RBI’s) to go along with All-Stars Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli (hasn’t made an All-Star Game yet, but will make one in the future), and Nelson Cruz. This lineup is so balanced that their offense can beat you with power, speed, or a combination of the two. As for their pitching rotation, its not the most overpowering rotation, but they do a solid job which nicely complement’s their offense. The rotation has a nice mixture of righties (3) and lefties (2) and is led by Derek Holland to go along with newly signed Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison. In addition to their starting staff, Texas has one of the best bullpens in the Majors which includes Mike Adams, Aleci Ogando, Mark Lowe, along with closer Joe Nathan. The Rangers have a great combination of offense and pitching on their roster and will be tough team beat in 2012.

Will this continue: I would be shocked if the Rangers didn’t continue to be one of the best teams in 2012 as I feel Texas is determined to get back to the World Series and finally bring the state of Texas their first World Series Championship. The majority of the Rangers players are in the prime’s of their career and their roster has learned from the mistakes that they made from their previous two playoff appearances.

Team to watch: Atlanta Braves: The Braves got off to a slow start (loosing their first four games) but since then, have gone 18-7 to take over second place (a 1/2 game behind the Nationals in the NL East) and will soon become the NL East Division Leaders. Atlanta features one of the best offenses (4th best team average (.271) along with the most runs (162)) in all of baseball. As for the teans pitching staff, they feature a good combination of veterans in All-Star’s Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens to go along with youngsters Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson, Randall Delgado, and Mike Minor. Their offense also includes a lot of youth (Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward) veterans (Michael Bourn and Martin Prado) and All-Stars (Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, and Brian McCann) on their roster. Earlier this season, Braves great Chipper Jones announced that this would be his final season playing in the majors and I feel this will motivate the Braves to go far in the Playoffs for their captain so he can go out on top.

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MLB Players to watch in 2012

There are a lot of players that should be watched for the 2012 season and can change the landscape of the baseball season.

Howie Kendrick (Angels): Everyone knows about the big names in the Angles lineup (Pujols, Hunter, Wells, and Trumbo), but I feel it’s the teams second baseman (Howie Kendrick) that can transform this offense from being a good to a great offense. In 2011, Kendrick made the All-Star team and for only the second time in his career, he played in more than 110 games (the other four seasons he played in under 110 games). If Kendrick can stay healthy and progress into an even better hitter in 2012, then Pujols and the other players in their lineup will be provided with more protection in the future.

Stephen Strasburg (Nationals): Towards the end of the season 2011, (after having Tommy John surgery), former number one overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, returned to the rotation and had a 1-1 record to go with a 1.50 ERA in 5 starts. The big question surrounding Strasburg this year is if he can prove that he’s recovered from having Tommy John surgery which would provide the Nationals  with one of the best young rotations in baseball (Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez) to go along with a solid offense (Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, and soon top prospect Bryce Harper) in the future. If this core can perform in 2012 and Strasburg can recover and become the pitcher he was seen as, then the Nationals could be a surprise team in 2012 and a dangerous team in the future.

Johan Santana (Mets): Many people don’t know what to expect from the former 2-time Cy-Young Award winner after not pitching in a MLB game since September of 2010. In the 2010 offseason, Johan had shoulder surgery and wasn’t able to pitch in any games throughout the 2011 season. I’m not sure the Mets can compete in the NL East in 2012 or for the next few years (the NL East includes: Phillies, Braves, Nationals, Marlins), however, if Johan is healthy and can prove he’s still a solid starting pitcher, I feel the Mets can look to eat part of Santana’s contract for next year (he also has a team option for the 2014 season or a buyout) and trade him after the season so they can add few more prospects to their minor league system. If Santana can prove that he’s back to being the pitcher he once was, then the Mets will have a player that everyone wants on their team and more importantly a left-handed starting pitcher that has a great change-up.

Max Scherzer (Tigers): The Tigers have the best pitcher in baseball (Justin Verlander) but they need someone else in their rotation to step-up and show that they can support Verlander and become a true number two starter on a team that’s capable of winning a World Series. The Detroit rotation currently features the best pitcher in baseball (Verlander), along with 2 solid starters (Scherzer and Doug Fister) and a pitcher that has the capability of being a very good number 3 or 4 pitcher in their rotation (Rick Porcello). Which brings me back to my first point, if Max Scherzer can step-up and show he can become a true number two starting pitcher (which means a All-Star caliber starter), to go along with one of the best rotations in the league, then the Tigers will be one of the top teams in 2012 and will be playing baseball deep into October.

B.J. Upton (Rays): The Rays and the rest of baseball have been waiting for B.J. Upton to become the player we saw during the 2008 playoffs when it looked like the Upton and Longoria combination would be one of the best 3-4 combination’s in all of baseball. Four years later, Upton’s offense still hasn’t returned from his 2008 season postseason dominance as he’s never had an average above .243 since the end of the 2008 playoffs. With that said, Upton’s still one of the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball, but if he can become a solid offensive center fielder, he’ll make himself a lot of money (he’s a free agent after this season) and the Rays will have a good offense to go along with the best young starting rotation in all of baseball. In my mind, B.J. Upton could be the key to the Rays going deep in the playoffs this season.


Derek Holland (Rangers): Yes, I did chose Derek Holland over Yu Darvish as one of the players to watch in 2012 (even though I’m excited to see what Darvish has to offer during the 2012 season. Back to Holland, with C.J. Wilson signing with the rival Angels, its time for Holland to step up and show that he’s not just a pitcher that can just throw complete games (4 last year), but that he can be a pitcher that can be counted on as a  legitimate number one pitcher. Currently, the Rangers have one of the best offenses (Hamilton, Beltre, Young, Andrus, Cruz, Napoli), a good bullpen (Nathan, Adams, Ogando), and a rotation that has a ton of question marks, but still has the capability of being a great rotation this year (Lewis, Holland, Harrison, Darvish, and Feliz). If Derek Holland can be a dominate pitcher in 2012, the Rangers might find themselves back in the World Series.

Josh Johnson (Marlins): The Marlins went out this offseason and signed Mark Buehrle to a four-year deal as he’ll become the number 2 starter in the Marlins rotation. The rest of Miami’s rotation should be solid with Sanchez and Nolasco to go along with a good bullpen (highlighted by Heath Bell) and a lineup that’s as good as any in the league (Reyes, Ramirez, Sanchez, Morrison, Stanton). However, if the Marlins want to be a true contender in 2012, they need for Josh Johnson to prove he’s healthy and show he can be a the ace they thought he would be a few years ago. Before he got hurt last year, Johnson had a 1.64 ERA and since the start of the 2008 season, he’s never had an ERA above 3.70. In my opinion, the Miami Marlins will only go as far as their star pitcher takes them.

Chad Billingsley (Dodgers): The Dodgers have two of the best players in all of baseball (Kemp and Kershaw), one of the most clutch hitters in the game (Ethier), solid relief pitching (Guerrier, Jansen, and Guerra) and one of the fastest players in the league (Dee Gordon). In 2007, 2008, and the start of the 2009 season (when he was named an All-Star) it seemed that Chad Billingsley was on his way to becoming one of the best young pitchers in baseball, however, since the 2009 All-Star break, Billingsley hasn’t been nearly the same pitcher as many times he’s struggled and hasn’t come close to mirroring the same pitcher from the past. If Billingsley can return to the pitcher he was a few years ago, then the Dodgers will be able to keep up with the Giants rotation (who have the best 1-2 duo in the league with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum) and at the same time feature a solid lineups to go with Billingsley and Kershaw.

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MLB Sleeper teams in 2012

Of course on paper it looks like there will be 6 dominant teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Rangers, and Angels); however, I feel  plenty of teams will go under the radar and become great sleeper teams throughout the 2012 season. Even though some of the teams listed below might not make the playoffs, I feel the teams that don’t make the playoffs will start to show their foundation on their roster and be ready to make a good run in the future.


Chicago Cubs:
Am I saying the Cubs will make the playoffs in 2012…no. At the same time, I do believe the 2012 Chicago Cubs will be a team that plays hard and the correct way day in and day out under new Manager Dale Sveum. If the Cubs can receive bounce back years (which I feel is very possible) from Soto, Soriano, and Byrd, along with Castro showing that he’s one of the top 5 shortstops in baseball, I believe this offense has the capability to be better than what people think. The biggest question surrounding the Cubs is their pitching staff as outside of Matt Garza, the rest of the rotation still has a lot of question marks. With Zambrano out of the rotation, I feel there won’t be as many distractions surrounding the Cubs will become a more productive pitching staff. One website predicted the Cubs would win 66 games this year and I feel the Cubs will easily surpass that total and finish with a minimum (remember I said minimum) win total of 75. Again, I’m not sure the Cubs will win the division this year, however, I feel the Cubs will tougher a lot better than people think and a roster that most other teams don’t want to play against.

Atlanta Braves: If the Braves are able to forget about what happened last year (losing a 8 1/2 game wild card lead in 2011) and realize that this is a new season; the Braves can become a legitimate threat to the entire league once the season begins. The Braves feature one of the best young cores in baseball with hitters Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward to go along with veterans (who aren’t 30 years of age) Michael Bourn and Brian McCann. Atlanta features a great young pitching staff (which goes 7 deep and has 6 of them being 26 and younger) with Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Monor (who was the 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft), Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran along with veteran pitcher Tim Hudson. In another shocking event, the Braves also have the best young bullpen in baseball with lefties Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters (both 27) and 2011 rookie of the year winner Craig Kimbrel. With team leader Chipper Jones announcing that this would be his last season playing baseball and the young Braves growing up next year, this could become a sleeper team to not just make the playoffs, but might just be the NL Representative in the World Series.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers will finally become a quieter place with the team being sold to a group that included NBA Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson. The Dodgers have arguable two of the 10 best players in the league with Center Fielder Matt Kemp and 2011 NL CY Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to go along with Dee Gordon, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley, Kanley Jansen, and Javy Guerra. The core of this team is very solid and showed at the end of the 2011 season that they have the potential to be a solid roster and might be a sleeper team to win the NL West Title.

Kansas City Royals: The 2012 Kansas City Royals has a lot resemblance to the roster that the Colorado Rockies featured from 2007-2009. Colorado featured a lot of great young hitters (Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins, Matt Holliday/Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Iannetta) and pitchers (Jeff Francis, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel) when the Rockies were in the playoffs twice during this span. As for the Royals, they feature a core that will either resemble those Rockies teams or be even better. The Royals have one of the best offense’s in baseball (Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain (great Fantasy Baseball sleeper pick), Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler), a solid future young pitching staff (Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb), and good young bullpen (Tim Collins, Greg Holland, and Aaron Crow). The Royals should be the next great young franchise, become a difficult team to beat in the long-term, and if there pitching is above average has a chance to finish in second place in the AL Central.

Toronto Blue Jays: Just like the Royals and Braves, the Blue Jays feature a good solid core of players which includes Jose Bautista and Adam Lind to go along with youngsters Eric Thames, Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, and J.P. Arencibia. The Blue Jays biggest problem lies within their pitching staff which features a few solid number 3 and 4 starters (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez, and Kyle Drabek), but no true number 1 or 2 starters on their roster. If the Jays were able to have manager (and former Red Sox pitching coach) John Farrell fix this problem and the rotation was stable in 2012, Toronto would become a difficult team to beat in 2012.

Cincinnati Reds: The Brewers and Cardinals might have won the NL Central in 2012, however, I feel the Reds “on paper” have the best team in the NL Central. At the same time, like other teams, the Reds still have a few key questions they have to make sure they address (which I’ll discuss in a few sentences). Before I get to these questions, I want to look at the positives on this roster which is highlighted by 2010 MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, and pitchers Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and Sean Marshall. The Reds were hit hard with the surgery to closer Ryan Madson and now need to find a reliever who has the capability to record the toughest 3 outs in baseball. If the Reds are able to find a reliable closer (and as much as I like like Marshall, I’m not sure how successful he’ll be as a reliver), their bullpen is able to hold up, and Mat Latos is able to adjust to the Great American Ballpark, I feel the Reds might become the team to beat in the NL Central and might make a apearance in the World Series. The Reds and their fans also realize that Joey Votto’s contract is almost up (after the 2013 season) and the time for them to win and go deep in the playoffs is now.

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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in MLB, Sports

 

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