Cards extend Adam Wainwright–5 years $97.5 million

Great news Cards fans…more on this later!

Posted in March2013 | Tagged | 1 Comment

NL East predictions 2013

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals (1)
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Florida Marlins

This seems to be a tough division to pick for many.  I see a lot of Nats and Braves in the top spot, with a few experts picking the Phillies.  I have to go with the Nats, they’re as loaded as a team can be, and I don’t think it will be that close.  They stole Denard Span from the Twins for Alex Meyer.  Meyer may end up being a good SP and the trade made sense for both clubs, but Span was a steal.

Ian Desmond (25 HR’s, 21 SB’s) and Danny Espinosa (17 HR’s, 20 SB’s) make up the best SS-2B combo in the NL IMO. Prying C Kurt Suzuki away from the A’s in 2012 was another great move.  We all know the potential of Bryce Harper (2012 NL ROY).  Jayson Werth was overpaid, but is still a solid player.  It was key at the time for the Nationals to get players to want to come to D.C.  In 300 AB’s, Werth only hit 5 HR’s but hit .300 with a .387 OBP.  Ryan Zimmerman (25 HR’s, 95 RBI’s) and Adam LaRoche (33 HR’s, 100 RBI’s) at the IF corners bring plenty of pop.  If Zimmerman’s shoulder holds up, he could be a NL MVP candidate.

And here’s the thing, the Nats offense isn’t even close to their biggest weapon, it the SP’s.  1-5, the Nats have the best rotation in the NL with Stephen Strasburg (197 K’s in 159.1 IP) leading the way, but he’s far from the only ace on the staff.  Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA, 207 K’s in 199.1 IP), Jordan Zimmerman (2.94 ERA) and newly acquired Dan Haren (career 7.6 SO/9) are all capable of giving the Nats many long winning streaks in 2013. #5 starter Ross Detwiler isn’t too shabby either.

Even though the Nats had two more than capable closers in Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard (32 saves), they went ahead and spent big bucks on Rafael Soriano who made 42 saves for the Yankees in 2012 when Mariano Rivera went down.  The Nats should win over 100 games in 2013.

The Braves made a few nice moves, but they have 5 players that struck out over 100 times in 2012.  Those players are Dan Uggla (168), Freddie Freeman (129), Jason Heyward (152), Justin Upton (121) and B.J. Upton (169).  Brian McCann is going to start the season on the DL with Gerald Laird replacing him.

Pitching will keep the Braves in hunt for a wild card, with Tim Hudson as the opening day starter followed by Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran.  SP Brandon Beachy will be out until at least June.  The Braves do have the best closer in the NL in Craig Kimbrel (116 K’s in 62.2 IP).  Kimbrel, along with Johnny Venters as the setup man will keep late leads secure.

The Phillies are the most interesting team in the NLE.  It all starts with Roy Halladay, who is having all kinds of problems with his velocity and trouble so far this spring bouncing back from shoulder and back problems.  Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels follow, and all 3 will need to pitch lights out to keep Philly in the race.  All three are legit CYA candidates when healthy.

Jonathan Papelbon will hold down leads, it’s just a matter of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard being healthy again to provide the offense.  This team is aging fast, and this may be the last year before the Phillies try to blow it up and start over.  Jimmy Rollins is still producing at a high rate, but after Utley, Rollins and Howard the lineup looks weak.  3B Michael Young has also seen his better days.  I just don’t think an OF made up of Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and John Mayberry is enough.  Catcher Carlos Ruiz will start the season with a 25 game ban.

The Mets will be without Johan Santana to start the year, and Shaun Marcum might start on the DL as well.  On offense, it’s David Wright, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis.  The rebuilding has begun.  Speaking of rebuilding, that’s the direction the Marlins went after getting their new ballpark.  They added Placido Polanco, but all they really have is Giancarlo Stanton.  It’s going to be a long year for both the Mets and Marlins.

The Nationals will have the #1 record in the NL.  I’ll do the NL Central picks tomorrow.

Posted in March2013 | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

2013 MLB Predictions–American League–UCB project

AL East

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (2)
  2. Tampa Bay Rays * (5)
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

It’s not just that the Blue Jays made the big deal with the Marlins to acquire Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes.  It’s the depth they have in both the lineup and the starting rotation.  NL CYA winner R.A. Dickey will lead the rotation, and Jose Bautista will finally have a lineup around him.  Having a 4th OF’er in Rajai Davis who stole 46 bases is quite a luxury, and Colby Rasmus will probably hit in the 7 or 8-hole.  Even with all the moves, the Blue Jays still have talent in the farm system to call on if needed.  The Blue Jays took advantage of the right time to strike.  The Yankees and Red Sox probably won’t be down for too many years, so this team will need to gel fast, and I think they will.

The Rays will be solid under Joe Maddon once again.  Outside of superstar Evan Longoria and underrated Ben Zobrist, it’s a lineup of steady players.  The pitching staff is led by David Price and is solid 1-5.  It will be impossible for Fernando Rodney to repeat his performance from 2012 (0.60 ERA), but he’s good enough to still be a top 5 closer.

The Yankees, Red Sox and O’s will all be battling for 3rd in the AL East.  The O’s lack pitching and were helped in 2012 with a 16-2 record in extra-inning games as well as 29-9 in one-run games.  The Red Sox are counting on John Lackey and Felix Doubront as their 4th and 5th starters and will start the year without David Ortiz.  The Yankees will start the year without Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Phil Hughes.  It’s a little naïve to think the Yankees and Red Sox won’t try to spend their way to the top as the season progresses, but no one is catching the Blue Jays in 2013.

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers (1)
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Cleveland Indians
  5. Minnesota Twins

The Tigers have the best starting staff 1-5 in MLB with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.  And by the way, they have a pretty good offense as well, with Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera leading the way.  The players on offense around him in Prince Fielder, Alex Avila, Victor Martinez, Austin Jackson and Tori Hunter will ensure he won’t be pitched around that often.  The BP is also solid, and the only question for the Tigers in 2013 will be if they can clinch the #1 overall seed in the AL.

The Royals finally figured out they needed pitching and traded top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis.  Shields will be the ace of the staff, followed by Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie, Davis and Luis Mendoza.  They have a top 10 closer in Greg Holland (91 K in 67 IP) and a strong BP behind him.  Salvador Perez is one of the best all-around young catchers in the game.  If Mike Moustakas can improve his plate discipline, along with a few others, this team is ready to take off.

The White Sox lost a big piece of their team in the offseason in A.J. Pierzynski.  They will see that loss in the lineup as well as the pitching staff.  Paul Konerko continues to be steady, but at 37, he’s bound to slow down soon.  Adam Dunn will strike out 200 times or more, the question is if he’ll hit 40 HR’s or not.  Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd are a nice 1-3 in the rotation, but after that it’s a lot of question marks and not a lot of depth.  The White Sox had the 30th ranked farm system in 2012.

The Indians are an interesting team.  They added Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs, Mark Reynolds and manager Terry Francona.  It all starts with pitching though and the Indians just don’t have it.  Justin Masterson will lead a staff followed Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers and Scott Kazmir.  That has the potential to be a good starting staff, but most of those guys will have to turn it around.  The names sound good if it was 3-4 years ago.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire might look up to see when Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are batting.  Then again, he may be too tired from walking to mound and making pitching changes and too busy replacing the ice packs on his knees from doing so.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3)
  2. Texas Rangers * (4)
  3. Oakland A’s
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros

The Angels are loaded, period.  Though not the best team in the AL, they have enough to get it done in the AL West and make a strong run in the playoffs.  Mike Trout may be the best overall player in the game, although I agreed with Miguel Cabrera winning the MVP in 2012.  Albert Pujols has seen his OPS slip 4 years in a row (2008-1.114, 2009-1.101, 2010-1.011, 2011-.906, 2012-.859), but having Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo batting behind him should reverse that trend for 2-3 years if he’s healthy.  Being familiar with AL pitchers will also help.  Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick are above average complementary players.  The SP’s are tough 1-5 with Jered Weaver leading the way.  I thought the acquisitions of SP’s Justin Vargas and Tommy Hanson were good ones.  The Angels went out and got Ryan Madson to close, but he’ll start the season on the DL still recovering from TJS.  Still, the BP looks good with Ernesto Frieri leading the way (98 K’s in 66 IP).

The Rangers lost some key pieces, most notably Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton, but picked up A.J. Pierzynski.  It’s unclear if Lance Berkman will make a contribution or not, as one false step on either knee and he’s out.  Joakim Soria might end up being a nice addition once he returns from the DL in May.  Joe Nathan is still a top closer.  Elvis Andrus keeps getting better.  Adrian Beltre is still the best all-around 3B in MLB, winning a second consecutive Platinum Glove Award (Goes to the best defensive player in each league, Yadier Molina has won both in the NL since they started in 2011).  After Derek Holland, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison, there are some question marks in the rotation.  The Rangers will find playing time for top prospect Jurickson Profar as his time is now.

The Oakland A’s aren’t likely to sneak up on anyone in 2013.  Like the Orioles, I expect them to come back to the pack.  Young pitchers Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone are impressive, but the fact is the A’s played way above their talent level in 2012.  Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes is a budding star, Coco Crisp continues to be solid, but the rest of the team just doesn’t have the firepower to make another run.

Although I’m picking the A’s for third, the Mariners have the potential to do more damage if everything breaks right.  They made some interesting moves in picking up Michael Morse, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales.  They’ll need all of these guys to have career years to make any kind of run at Rangers for 2nd in the ALW.  Felix Hernandez is a top 3 pitcher in all of MLB, but after that, there’s nothing as far as pitching help.  Catcher Jesus Montero is a rising star.

The Houston Astros may be one of the worst teams of all-time.  GM Jeff Luhnow has a long road ahead of him.  If I were Luhnow, I would get as much as I could by trading Jose Altuve now.  Staff ace Bud Norris is likely to have an ERA over 5.50.  The 2003 Detroit Tigers were 43-119, which was the worst record in baseball since the 1962 Mets who were 40-120.  I won’t be surprised if the 2013 Astros are close to that.

So there you have it.  I have the Blue Jays, Tigers and Angels as division winners, with the Rays and Rangers as the wild cards.  The NL picks will be in the next day or two.

Posted in March2013 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Kyle Lohse goes to the Brewers, Cards add another draft pick (19th and 28th)

Kyle Lohse finally found a job, signing with the Milwaukee Brewers today for a 3 year, $33 million deal.  According to the new MLB draft rules, the Brewers will forfeit their 1st round pick at #17 instead of it going to the Cardinals, and the Cards will get pick #28 instead.  Every team that was slated to pick after the Brewers moves up one slot in the draft as well, so the Cards #20 pick now becomes a #19 pick.  This is another win for the Cardinals #1 rated farm system.  John Mozeliak and company will have a little more wiggle room to take the chance on a high ceiling player in the 2013 draft.  The Cardinals are also given another $1.7 million to the pool of money on players in the first 10 rounds now.

This is just another example of the Cards following the short and long term plan that will keep them competitive over the next 8-10 years.  The Cardinals know if they’re going to compete in the future with teams that are getting massive TV contracts that the help is going to have to come from within, and it’s going to have to keep coming.  Surrounding young players with a few key veterans is a plan the Cardinals have to hit on.  Bringing back Lohse at 3 years and $33M wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but it probably would have meant the end of Adam Wainwright negotiations, and the loss of possibly adding another high upside cost controlled player.

Although the Cards have the #1 farm system in baseball right now, it’s not likely to be that way after 2014.  As soon as Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveras, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong and a few others are here to stay, the Cards system will fall fast.  It’s important to continue to restock that system now, and Mo took a chance on Lohse that has now paid off to work on that future plan.  If Lohse wouldn’t have signed with a team until after the draft, the Cards would have not only not gotten another pick, they would have lost roughly $1.5 million in money to spend on this year’s draft (first 10 rounds) by making him a qualifying offer.

The Brewers must think they’re a lot closer to competing in the NLC in 2013 than many others do.  Right now, it seems like a 2 team race between the Cards and the Reds.  Having Lohse behind Yovanni Gallardo isn’t bad though, and if injuries start to take down the Reds and Cards, the Brew Crew may just be close enough to make a few moves to bolster their team at the trading deadline.  The Cards should find out more today on the health of David Freese after an MRI on his back.  Carlos Beltran has a bad toe that he pushed through in the WBC.  More on that later, so far today it’s another win for the future of the Cards.

Posted in March2013 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Motte has tear in elbow, Boggs to start 2013 as Cards closer

The Cards just announced that Jason Motte will be shut down with a tear in his right elbow, and Mitchell Boggs will be the Cards closer to start the year.  As I always say, you never have a pitching surplus.  What looked to be a strength heading into 2013 in the Cards BP will now be tested early.  This move immediately means that both Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller will head north with the Cards, but it also takes what I thought to be the Cards greatest strength in the BP in Trevor Rosenthal and puts him in a designated role.

Instead of having Rosenthal to be that guy to come in when tough situations come up with men on base to put out a fire, he’ll probably be the designated to the  7th or 8th inning.  I understand the Cards going with Boggs as the closer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the early season if Rosenthal is moved into that role.  I think Rosenthal has the stuff to be the next Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel.  Speaking of Chapman, the Reds have revised their plan and instead of moving him to the rotation, he will continue to close games.

The Cards say Motte will be evaluated again soon, but I’m not sure you can ever be optimistic when you hear the word tear with a pitcher’s throwing elbow.  It will be even more important for Fernando Salas to return to 2011 form now (which I think he will since his kidney stones are gone), and hopefully Eduardo Sanchez gets off to a fast start as the closer in AAA and can be counted on again if another injury occurs.  Michael Wacha, who has all of 21 professional IP, might just make it to STL in 2013 as well.  Yadier Molina says Wacha is ready now.

With our annual UCB predictions coming up that I’m working on, it was a toss-up between the Cards and Reds in the NLC.  Now, I have to give the edge to the Reds, who once again have remained injury free with their pitchers so far this year.  I’m not sure the Reds can count on never missing a start from a SP like they did in 2012, but only time will tell.  Those predictions will be posted before the season begins.

It took Motte a while, but he finally had it all working in 2012.  After getting hit hard early with his fastball, he was able to pitch effectively with his cutter the final 4 months of the season and was very dominant.  The Cards recently signed him to a 2 year contract because of the dominance he showed once he could locate the cutter.

The good news is the Cards have prepared for this by hanging onto their young arms.  GM John Mozeliak has resisted trading away the future for needs that aren’t really there.  Many fans are not happy with Pete Kozma as the starting SS, but those fans fail to understand what the Cards are trying to do not just in 2013, but through 2020.  Now, we’ll get a chance to see that plan in action.  It’s probably a little sooner than Mo would have liked, but the depth in 2013 doesn’t hang on the likes of Victor Marte, Barret Browning and Sam Freeman.

For those who may suggest the Cards need to trade for a proven closer, go ahead and zip it up, it’s not going to happen.

Posted in March2013 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments