Tag Archives: Ian Kinsler

2014 AL West Preview

1) Texas Rangers

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 11.19.57 PM

Over the past two seasons, the Rangers have collected a great group of talented players, but failed to make the ALDS. Last season, the Rangers won 91 games, but did not beat the Indians in game 163 and were eliminated from the playoffs. The biggest deal the Rangers made this offseason was the acquisition of Prince Fielder. Although the Rangers were forced to part ways with Ian Kinsler, one of their best players over the past decade, Prince is a significant upgrade at first base and the Rangers had an excess of middle infielders on their team and in their minor league system. The Rangers have one of the best infields in baseball, offensively and defensively, because they have Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, when he returns from injury, and Prince Fielder. In the outfield, the Rangers signed Shin Soo Choo to a massive deal because they believe they are close to winning a major league championship. The outfield is deep with Leodys Martin, Alex Rios, and Choo. As long as the Rangers’ offense stays moderately healthy, they should record a lot of runs and win a lot of games in the process. Along with a balanced offense, many of the Rangers are quality defensive players, which is necessary in the Texas.

In terms of pitching, the Rangers should have enough talent and depth to win over 90 games this season and win the AL West. The staff will be led by ace Yu Darvish. Darvish proved last season that he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and the best strikeout pitcher in the game. The Rangers need Darvish to stay healthy and pitch at a high level because the ball can fly in the warm climate of Arlington. Behind Darvish, the Rangers have a solid 2-4 with Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, and Martin Perez. Although Ogando and Harrison have been injury prone in the past, they have great talent and will be incredibly important for the Rangers moving forward. Martin Perez could be the X-Factor for the Rangers because he is a former top prospect with a lot of talent. As Perez gains more experience, he should propel to the number two starter in the rotation, if they do not acquire another starter during the deadline, like previous seasons. The fifth spot for the Rangers will be a question mark because Tommy Hanson has achieved great success in the past, but has struggled with his performance and health over the past few seasons. In the bullpen, the Rangers should pitch very well. Although Soria has not closed since his time with the Royals, he has a good arm and has the necessary experience. Before the ball goes to Soria, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Jason Frasor, and Neal Cotts must hold leads in order to win games. Although the Rangers did not make the playoffs last season, they should win enough games and score enough runs to win over 90 games and reclaim the AL West Championship from the Oakland Athletics, who won the division the past two seasons.

Rangers Predicted Record: 92-70

2) Oakland Athletics

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 11.23.10 PM

Over the past two seasons, the A’s have made the playoffs and won the division. Although the A’s do not have the most talent or the highest payroll, Bob Melvin does a great job with the team and the team has exceeded expectations. This offseason, the A’s made a few minor moves, but their offense will predominantly remain the same next season. In the infield, the A’s will be starting Branden Moss, Eric Sogard, Jed Lowrie, and Josh Donaldson. Last season, Donaldson had a career year and bursted onto the scene because he hit and played great defense. Donaldson needs to repeat his performance as a hitter this season. Moss was impressive for the Athletics because he has a big bat and is a great power hitter. In the outfield, the A’s have Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick. Crisp has been great for the A’s the lsat few seasons because he is an experienced hitter and is a quality top of the order hitter. Since Cespedes came to the US, he has been one of the best hitters in the AL because he has great talent and has used his raw power to crush balls out of the ballpark.

Although Oakland has established hitters, their pitching will be a major question mark this season because the pitchers do not have experience and a lot of MLB success. The ace of the staff will be Sonny Gray. Although Sonny has a lot of talent and exceeded in the past, he has not achieved greatness at the major league level and it is unclear if he will be able to lead the staff to the playoffs. Behind Gray, the Athletics have Chavez, Staily, and Milone. The three pitchers have shown flashes of greatness over the past few seasons, but have not been able to break out. The trio will need to pitch deep into games and give the team quality outings if they are going to match their win total from the last few seasons. The pitchers will be able to allow few runs per game because the offense has a lot of talent and power. Also, the team plays in a massive ballpark, which will help their pitchers record extra outs and limit runs. In the bullpen, the A’s should have one of the best units in the league because they have established arms like Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson, and Jim Johnson. The trio should be the main pitchers in the bullpen and hold the leads for the teams.

Besides the three at the end of the bullpen, Oakland has Dan Otero, Fernando Abad, and Evan Scribner. If Oakland can receive positive contributions from the other arms, they will have an elite bullpen. Although the A’s have achieved success over the past few seasons with lack of talent, it is difficult to see that they will be able to win enough games in the competitive AL West and American League to make the playoffs as a division winner or a wild card team.

Athletics Predicted Record: 86-76

3) Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 11.24.24 PM

In terms of talent and experience, the Angels should have won the division the last two seasons and competed for the pennant and the championship. However, the team has struggled and they have not even been close to making the playoffs. The team has suffered through injuries and funks and has greatly underachieved. This season, the Angels have a lot of talent and should be able to compete for a wild card position in the AL.

The Angels will be led by their offense. In the lineup, the Angels have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and David Freese. Although Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton have not played well since they arrived in Los Angeles, they should be able to produce quality numbers if they stay healthy for an entire season. While Pujols and Hamilton have underachieved, Trout has positioned himself as the best overall player in the league and will compete for the MVP award. Besides the big three, the Angels will need to rely on role players like Freese, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and Raul Ibanez. If the offense reaches its potential, the team should be one of the highest scoring teams in the league because they may have more talent and potential than any other team.

The Angels have a lot of question marks in their pitching staff, which may keep them from the playoffs for another season. The top of the pitching staff will be held by Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Both are constant and reliable pitchers. The Angels need the duo to have great seasons because the rest of the rotation does not have a lot of experience of success at the major league level. The back of the rotation has Hector Santiago, Garett Richards, and Tyler Skaggs. This offseason, the Angels were able to remake their pitching staff by trading Trumbo for Skagss and Santiago, two young lefty arms. The Angels did not have many options for their rotation so they hope that the young starters can learn on the job and succeed at the highest level. If the Angels make the playoffs, it will be because the back of the rotation did not implode and lose games for the offense.

In the bullpen, the Angels have the potential to have a nice unit. At the back of the bullpen, the Angels have Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri. The two have experienced success over the past few seasons and the team should feel confident if they can hold a lead into the eighth inning. The middle of the bullpen may have a lot of problems because they do not have a lot of innings in the majors, which has been a problem in the past. Although the Angels have the talent to make the playoffs and win the division, they have suffered many injuries in the past and it is likely that they will continue to underachieve and finish third in the division.

Angels Predicted Record: 85-77

4) Seattle Mariners

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 11.25.06 PM

The Mariners made the biggest offseason move this offseason when they signed Robinson Cano to a monster deal worth $240 million over 10 years. The Mariners have had a lot of money to spend over the past few seasons, but have been unable to lure a free agent to the team. Over the past few seasons, the Mariners’ offense has been atrocious and mediocre, but they believe they will take a step forward this season. Along with Cano, the lineup has former top prospects like Justin Smoak, Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager, and Dustin Ackley. Although they have a lot of talent and potential, they have been unable to transform their potential into performance, which has held them back as a team. If they can take a step forward, the team, will drastically improve their win total because they do not allow many runs. Last season, the Mariners won only 71 games, but it is likely that the enhanced offense will allow them to win more games.

While the lineup is one of the worst in the AL, the pitching staff may be the best in the league. Although Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijun Walker are on the disabled list, they should be able to return soon and greatly improve the staff. The ace of the staff is Felix Hernandez, who is one of the best pitchers in the league and is building a hall of fame caliber career. Last season, Iwakuma was great and should be able to continue his success and compete for the CY Young, like Hernandez. Walker has been one of the most hyped prospects over the past few season and is ready to display his potential this season. Walker should be a great number 3 while he learns how to pitch at the major league level. Along with Walker, Paxton should be able to succeed at the major league level. Paxton does not have the same talent as Walker, but should be quality middle of the rotation starter in the future.

The rotation needs to excel in order for the Cano deal to be worthwhile and the team to win games. The Mariners totally rebuilt their bullpen this offseason. The new closer will be Fernando Rodney and will be set up by Charlie Ferbush and Tom Wilhelmsen. The bullpen should be consistent and hold the leads that they are given because they have a lot of experience and success in the league.

Predicted Mariners Record: 84-78

5) Houston Astros

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 11.27.03 PM

The Houston Astros’ past few seasons have been disastrous and this season should be no different. However, the team does not care about their current record because they are building for the future. The Astros have one of the best farm systems of all time because they have numerous players that should be stars in the future. The Astros should have the number one overall pick which should enable them to add to their depth. The Astros hope that they can be like the Rays and use their young talent to start a dynasty and make a lot of playoffs. However, the Astros are in a bigger market, which will allow them to keep their young stars, unlike other teams that have rebuilt in the past.

On their current team, the offense is led by Jose Altuve, Jesus Guzman, Matt Dominguez, LJ Hoes, Jason Castro, and Dexter Fowler. Although the team does not have a lot of talent, they will be better than last season because Fowler is an improvement and the extra year should help a few of their young players. The team will go through a lot of struggles and losing streaks, but the future of the team is very bright and the fans should stay confident about the future of their team. The team should be excited because they will play with enthusiasm and a few of their players have a lot of talent.

On the pitching staff, the team does not have a lot of talent. The rotation includes Scott Feldman, Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, Lucas Harrell, and Dallas Keuchel. Besides Feldman, the pitching staff does not have many innings pitched or experience. Although the pitchers are young, only Jarred Cosart is in the future plans for the Astros because he has a lot of talent and should pitch high in the rotation in the future. Last season, Cosart showed flashes of greatness and shut down some offenses in the major league.

The Astros have a cheap bullpen with many pitchers who are hoping to revive their career like Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Anthony Bass, Kevin Chapman, and Jerome Williams. The pitchers throw hard, which gives them a chance to succeed and overwhelm opposing hitters. The Astros will likely lose over 100 games this season, but they hope that they can improve their record from last season and allow their players to grow. The Astros will consider this season a success if their young players gain experience, improve, and succeed at the major league and minor league level.

Predicted Astros Record: 59-103

 [ads]

Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

2014 AL Central Preview

By: Jon

The AL Central has experienced a lot of change in the past few years and this offseason was no different. The division leader from a season ago, the Detroit Tigers, were able to make the American League Championship Series before losing to the eventual Champions in the Boston Red Sox.

 

1) Detroit Tigers

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 5.39.55 PM

The Tigers were one of the busiest teams during the offseason. Over the last few seasons, the Tigers have been one of the most successful teams, but have not won the World Series. This season, the Tigers have a great chance of winning the title as they may have the best team on paper.

Like other seasons, the Tigers offense should be incredibly effective and dangerous. The leader of the offense is their star third baseman, Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is the best all-around hitter in baseball and is rising on the all-time list. If Cabrera can remain healthy for at least 140 games, he will hit over .320 with 40 home runs, 100 runs, and 125 RBI. Although Cabrera was protected by Fielder the past two seasons, the Tigers traded Prince to the Texas Rangers in return for star second baseman Ian Kinsler. Although Kinsler does not have the same power potential, he is a proven run scorer and should get on base at a high level in front of Cabrera. Although Cabrera will not have Prince to protect him, the Tigers must rely on the skill of Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter. The Tigers should be able to continue their excellence on offense and score enough runs to win a lot of games. In terms of defense, the team will have more problems with the loss of Jose Iglesias. Although Jose is young, he showed last season that he is one of the best fielders in the league because he has great range, hands, and a fantastic throwing arm. The Tigers do not have a great defense, which could ultimately lead to their downfall.

Along with the Tigers’ great offense, the Tigers’ pitching staff is one of the best in the league. The staff will be led by two Cy Young Award winners, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Along with the two stars, the Tigers have Anibal Sanchez, Drew Smyly, and Rick Porcello. Although the trio do not have the star power like Max and Justin, they have great potential and skill. The trio must continue their success from last season if they are going to compete for the best record in the AL and claim home field advantage throughout the postseason. During last postseason, the Tigers showed how dominant their starting pitching would become because of their power and ability to strike out opposing batters. The Tigers would have advanced to the WS and possibly won the championship if they had a better bullpen. During the offseason, the Tigers improved their bullpen by signing Joba Chamberlain and star closer Joe Nathan. Along with Bruce Rondon, the new and enhanced bullpen should make the Tigers an improved ball club.

The Tigers won 93 games last season and should be able to win a similar amount of games this season. The Tigers are by far the best team in the AL Central and should win the division by at least 5 games. Without Doug Fister and Fielder, the Tigers will probably lose more games during the regular season without the power bat and quality pitcher.

Predicted Tigers Record: 91-71

2) Kansas City Royals

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 5.40.25 PM

The Royals were one of the surprise teams in baseball last season and almost made the playoffs last year. The young Royals’ offense has an incredible amount of talent and should propel the Royals to success this season in the AL Central.

The Royals will be led on offense by Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Omar Infante, Billy Butler, and Mike Moustakas. The leader of the Royals’ offense is certainly Eric Hosmer. Hosmer took great strides toward the end of last season and became the best player on the team. The Royals are hoping that Mike Moustakas will take the next step forward like Hosmer and become a dominant part of their offense. If Mike and Salvador Perez can become stars and Hosmer a superstar, the team will have a chance to compete in the AL Central with the Indians and the Tigers. The Royals have a lot of good complementary players, but need a superstar to strike fear into opponents and win more games. On defense, the team should be very good and the outfield should be the rock of the team. The combination of Gordon, Aoki, and Cain should produce a great defensive unit because they are quick, have good instincts, and good arms in the outfield. In the infield, the team has a few good defensive players, which will make the team stable.

[ads]

In terms of pitching, the Royals have a few questions that must be answered in order to win enough games. The starting staff will be led by “Big Game” James Shields who pitches like an ace and is a good pitcher to build around. If the Royals do not stay competitive throughout the season, the Royals will look to trade Shields because it is unlikely that they will be able to sign him to a long term deal next offseason. Behind James, the team has Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, and Jeremy Guthrie. The biggest X-Factor of the pitching staff will be Yordano Ventura. Yordano has excelled during the spring season because he can throw heat. Yordano has averaged around 98 MPH during the innings he has pitched this spring. Along with Ventura, Duffy and Vargas will be important for the Royals. Vargas is a consistent pitcher and should be a quality pitcher for the Royals. Duffy has extreme talent and the Royals hope that he can harness his potential and succeed with the club.

If the Royals’ pitchers can meet their expectations, the team will be competing for the second wild card position and win over 85 games. Like last season, the Royals’ bullpen should be consistent and dominant throughout the regular season. Last season, Greg Holland was one of the most dominating teams because he has the ability to throw hard and strike out opposing hitters at an amazing rate. Along with Holland, they have a lot of quality arms in the bullpen that should keep leads. Although the Royals may not outlast the Tigers for a the division championship, they will be in a tight battle with the Cleveland Indians.

Predicted Royals Record: 87-75

3) Cleveland Indians

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 5.40.56 PM

The Indians were the biggest surprise last season because manager Terry Francona was able to lead them to the second wild card position. Although they did not have great talent, they came together as a team and went on a great streak toward the end of the season. However, the Indians lost a few players that were important to their late season run and failed to sign people to replace their starters.

Although the Indians do not have any superstars in their lineup, they recorded the fifth most runs in the league. The key contributors for the Indians are Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley. Since the Indians do not have a player that can carry an offense for a month, each player must play at a high consistent level and exceed expectations if they are going to score enough runs to win games. In terms of defense, the Indians have quality defensive players such as Cabrera, Kipnis, Bourn, and Brantley, which will help them stop opposing teams from scoring.

[ads]

The Indians’ pitching staff is extremely interesting because they do not have a legitimate ace. The Indians need to replace Ubaldo Jimenez, who had a great stretch toward the end of last season and pitched like an ace. The leader of the pitching staff this season must be Justin Masterson. Masterson pitched well last season, but needs to make the next step and pitch like an ace if the Indians are going to make a run next season. Behind Masterson, the Indian’s have Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, Cory Kluber, and Shaun Marcum filling out the other four spots in the rotation. The quartet has not achieved much success at the major league level during their careers; however, they must stay healthy and pitch well throughout the season. It is unlikely that they will be able to meet expectations and stay healthy because Marcum was a disaster last year and the other three did not pitch many innings last season. Although the trio had ERAs in the 3s last year, they each pitched under 150 innings and it is unknown if they can achieve the same success over an entire season or the 175 innings each that the Indians are expecting from the three starters.

While the starting rotation may present questions, the relief staff should be the most consistent part of their squad. Although they lost former closer Chris Perez, they replaced him with closer John Axford. Although Axford has not experienced success in the last few seasons, he has experience and should be able to obtain success. The Indians have retained the rest of their bullpen, which includes Cody Allen, Marc Rzepczynski, Vinnie Pestano, and Josh Outman. Each reliever has experienced success in the past and should be able to succeed next season for the Indians. The Indians’ bullpen needs to pitch well because they cannot afford to lose leads. Although they won 92 games last season, it is unlikely they will achieve similar success this season. The Indians are a quality team with many solid players but do not have any stars.

Predicted Indians Record: 81-81

4) Chicago White Sox

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 5.41.22 PM

The Chicago White Sox had a horrible season last year as many players had the worst seasons of their careers. The White Sox are in full rebuilding mode and traded a few of their elder, more expensive players last season before the trade deadline. The White Sox have a lot of young talent on their roster and will be starting these young players this season. Although these players have talent, they will go through their struggles and face a few losing streaks during the season.

The White Sox made a big signing this offseason when they signed Jose Abreu, a young Cuban, to a long term deal. The White Sox hope they can build a strong lineup with Abreu, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, Tyler Flowers, and Gordon Beckham. The White Sox feel that they have a strong core so they can eventually become a playoff team in a few years. Unless the White Sox are a major surprise, they will probably trade away Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, or Alexei Ramirez at the trade deadline because it is unlikely that they are part of the White Sox’s future.

On the pitching staff, the White Sox have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks, Felipe Paulino, and Erik Johnson. The White Sox are led by Chris Sale, a legitimate ace and one of the ten best pitchers in the league. Sale is a young pitcher with great skill and has the ability to strike out over 200 batters in a single season. Outside of Sale, the rest of the staff pose many questions. Danks and Quintana are solid pitchers, but they can be inconsistent and occasionally perform very poorly. The back of the rotation Paulino and Johnson are young starters with little experience. Although they will go through their struggles, the White Sox hope Paulino and Johnson will improve with more experience and exposure and eventually become reliable starters in the rotation.

Like the other parts of their team, the bullpen has a few questions. First, the Sox must find a new closer because they traded Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks this offseason. The White Sox hope Matt Lindstrom can become a consistent closer and achieve success again. Before Robin Ventura will give the ball to Lindstrom, the ball will likely go through Ronald Belisario, Nate Jones, Donnie Veal, Scott Downs, and Dylan Axelrod. Many of these pitchers are unknowns for the White Sox. If the relievers are able to exceed expectations, the White Sox may be able to win a few more games than expected. The White Sox may not win many games, but they will be fun and exciting to watch because they have a lot of young talented players that will be relied on to play a lot this season.

Predicted White Sox Record: 70-92

5) Minnesota Twins

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 5.41.50 PM

At the start of the offseason, the Twins were one of the most active teams and signed a few starting pitchers. The Twins, like the White Sox, are in full rebuilding mode and do not have much talent on their roster, especially on offense. Besides Joe Mauer, the Twins do not have many players that the average fan has heard of in the past.

Some of these players include Josmil Pinto at catcher (Mauer has moved to first base), Pedro Florimon at third base, Alex Presley in center field, and Oswaldo Arcia in right field. Although these players have talent, especially Oswaldo Arcia, none of the players are expected to be All-Stars in the future. The Twins’ two best prospects Michael Sano and Bryan Buxton, the best prospect in baseball, are not expected to play with the Twins this season, but should be stars for the next 2 decades. Like the White Sox, the Twins will probably be auctioning some of their elder players during the trade deadline such as Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel, and possibly Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe.

In terms of the Twins’ pitching, their pitching staff should be dramatically improved because they signed a few starters to long term deals, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. The Twins have an improved staff, but they do not have an ace or a very deep rotation. Nolasco pitched well last season, but he is not a true number one pitcher. Hughes had trouble in New York, but he should be able to improve because he will not allow as many home runs in the spacious Target Field. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are quality, experienced pitchers and should pitch a lot of quality innings. At the fifth spot, the Twins have Vance Worley. Worley is a young pitcher with potential and the Twins hope that he will be part of the rotation for another decade. Worley has been injured since being traded from the Phillies, but he will not be asked to pitch an exorbitant amount of innings. The Twins have some nice pieces in the rotation, but will need to pitch well because the offense will not score many runs.

In the bullpen, the Twins have a few good options like Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak. Although these pieces may not be on the team the entire season because other teams will trade for them at the deadline, they should pitch well and allow the Twins to hold the leads they are able to gain. The Twins’ fans need to have patience because in a few years the team should be good once their prospect gain experience and mature their bodies and game.

Predicted Twins Record: 69-93

All pics and stats from ESPN

[ads]