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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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American League East Spring Training Preview

I feel this is the best division in all of baseball as it features 3 of the best teams in baseball along with a team on the rise (that still went .500 last year and still finished in 4th place). With the new baseball playoff format, it wouldn’t be surprising to see three teams in the playoffs when October rolls around.

New York Yankees: Last year was an up and down year for the Yankees that started on their wrong foot (highlighted by injuries) and then they recovered to win the division before being ousted in the ALDS by the Detroit Tigers. The entire Yankees season was mirrored by injuries as pitchers Phil Hughes (shoulder inflammation) and Joba Chamberlain (Tommy John surgery) were the first to go down with injuries and eventually All-Stars Derek Jeter (hamstring) and Alex Rodriguez (knee) missed time due to injuries. Once  New York recovered, and were fully healthy in mid-July, the Yankees went on a long run which culminated with the Yankees winning another division title. Once the Yankees lost to the Tigers in the ALDS, the organization realized they need to bolster their starting rotation during the upcoming offseason. As the offseason was about to commence, the Yankees decided to re-due star pitcher CC Sabathia’s contract and gave him a new 7  year deal to anchor their rotation. With the Free-Agent pitching market so limited, the Yankees were quiet on the free agent market this offseason until the middle of January when New York decided to trade top catching prospect (Jesus Montero) for 2011 All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda along with signing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. In 2012, the Yankees once again will feature one of the best lineups in baseball (Rodriguez, Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira Brett Gardner, Curtis and Curtis Granderson) to go along with a solid pitching staff (Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera). With the Yankees healthier along with the additions made to their pitching staff, the 2012 Yankees will once again compete for a division title.

Tampa Bay Rays: What a great season for the Tampa Bay Rays as the Rays started the season off loosing 8 of the first 9 games and then in late September overcame a 9 1/2 game deficit to win the AL Wild Card (on Evan Longoria’s game winning Home Run, capping off one of the greatest days in baseball history). In the 2010 offseason, the Rays decided to make significant changes to their roster, and decided to go in another direction (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena,Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, along with other left the team). However, this offseason, the Rays were able to keep the core of their roster together and should once again find themselves as contenders once again in 2012. The Rays young hitting core includes Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist, and BJ Upton and at the same time they resigned former Rays first baseman Carlos Pena to bring more power to their team. The Rays also feature one of the best young rotations in baseball, anchored by “Big Game” James Shields,  fellow all-star pitcher David Price, alongside Wade Davis, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann and rookie of the year winner Jeremy Hellickson. With the Rays having 6 solid starting pitchers currently in their rotation, along with former Cubs farm-hand Chris Archer, the Tampa should have a lot of depth in their rotation and leave them the possibility of trading one of their starters to help improve their offense. The Rays will once again be at the top of the AL East and compete for another division title.

Boston Red Sox: The 2010 Red Sox offseason was exciting and eventful acquiring two all-stars (traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford) and left Red Sox fans dreaming of another title in Boston. With all the hoopla surrounding the Red Sox, Boston got off to a rough start as they started the season by loosing 7 of their first 8 games and had questions surrounding this team. However, the Red Sox recovered and at the start of September held a 9 1/2 game lead in the wild card standings over the Tampa Bay Rays. For the month of September, the Red Sox went 7-20 and on the last day of the season were passed by the Rays as Tampa advanced to the postseason. After the season, rumors of beer and fried chicken being ate during the game started surrounding the team which led to many changes occurring in the offseason. The 2011 offseason started by having manager Terry Francona leaving the organization and a few weeks later general manager Theo Epstein also left the Red Sox and became the Cubs president. The Red Sox started rebuilding their front office by naming Assistant General Manager Ben Cherington General Manager of the Red Sox. Cherington and the Red Sox then concentrated on finding a manager and decided to name former Rangers and Mets manager Bobby Valentine as manager of their team. With all of the changes the Red Sox went through this offseason, they still feature one of the best lineups in baseball which consists of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis. The problem for the Red Sox is within the rotation as they feature a lot of question-marks which include: will Josh Beckett stay healthy, will Clay Buchholz come back fully recovered from his injury, and will someone step up and help solidify the last two spots in their rotation? If these questions are answered, and Jon Lester continues his assent as becoming a true ace, the Red Sox should be in for a nice season and will be stride for stride with the Yankees and Rays once September rolls around.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays continued to show their a team on the rise and in the near future will be a team that competes for a division title. When the 2011 offseason rolled around, Toronto realized they needed to upgrade their pitching depth so they acquired former White Sox closer Sergio Santos to help solidify the back-end of their bullpen and tried to sign pitcher Yu Darvish to a offer-sheet but were outbid by the Texas Rangers. As for the 2012 Blue Jays, they feature a dangerous lineup which is led by MVP Candidate Jose Bautista along with Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arenciba, and Brett Lawrie. The Jays also feature a young pitching staff highlighted by pitchers Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, and Kyle Drabek but at the same time don’t have a true number one starter. If the Jays were able to trade a few of their young prospects (Travis d’Arnaud, Anthony Gose, Jake Marisnick, Noah Syndergaard, or other prospects in the Jays system), they would become a legitimate threat to the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox and make this a four team race once the playoffs role around.

Baltimore Orioles:Baltimore once again finished in last place in the AL East and still have a lot of holes to fill on their roster. At the end of the 2011 season, the Orioles did a great job playing the spoiler roleby defeating the Red Sox 5 out of last 7 times as the Red Sox were falling apart. The core of the O’s includes hitters Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters along with pitchers Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter. In addition to having a few young players currently on their roster, the O’s have a couple of solid prospects in their farm system which includes shortstop Manny Machado and pitcher Dylan Bundy along with a few other prospects. The Orioles core is average, but I feel the new regime in Baltimore (led by new GM Dan Duquette) will make a few changes to their roster and at the same time use the models that have been used by Toronto and Tampa Bay to to rebuild their farm system. Baltimore’s 2012 season will once again be tough one as they continue to remake their roster while playing in the toughest division in baseball. At the same time, I feel Baltimore should have a few attractive trade pieces at the trade deadline that might intrigue other teams (Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts (if he proves he’s healthy), Mark Reynolds, Kevin Gregg, Jason Hammel, and Matt Lindstrom) if they decide to be sellers at the trade deadline.

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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in MLB, Sports

 

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