Sunday, August 23, 2009

Position Players of the Future

Well, that was fun... looking at the Top 25 pitchers who made their debut this season. Let's waste some time now, looking at the hitters. Please note, this is an exercise that should be fraught with flaws because we are doing no math, looking at very few numbers, and just picking guys that we think should be good. By the way, there were more than 25 inspiring pitchers who made their debut this year. As you will see in the following list, the hitters have been less impressive. I'd say that really only about three people on this list have accomplished much this season.

25.) Bobby Scales, 2b
The one, true non-prospect on this list is 31-year old Bobby Scales. He made an inspirational impact with the Cubs this May, and no-one will be able to take that experience away from him. Unfortunately, very few forces out there will give Scales another taste of the show.

24.) Trent Oeltjen, OF
Oeltjen is another late bloomer. The 26-year old flashed some power & speed soon after his debut, but his true talent is showing as he is in the truest sense of the word a replacement-level player.

23.) Ramiro Pena, SS
Here comes some name dropping... Pena is very close to the spotlight as the understudy of Captain Jetes. He has shown the ability to field his position with ease. Unfortunately, he hits a lot like Rey Ordonez. I'd say Pena's upside is that of Adam Everett, but a more realistic career arc for him to follow would probably be that of Pokey Reese, Desi Relaford or at best Alex Cora.

22.) Landon Powell, C
I don't know anything about Landon Powell. In fact, when I saw his name on the list of players to debut this year, I thought maybe this was Boog Powell. Alas, this is not Boog Powell, who actually debut'd in 1961, played 17 seasons, and retired with 1,776 hits, 339 HR's, and 134 OPS+. I should probably know more about Boog Powell and Landon Powell, as well. His numbers aren't actually impressive, but he plays catcher. Still, he's 27 years old, meaning that his days of actually getting better are few and far between.

What am I doing? Yesterday, I only wrote about the Top 10. Why didn't anyone interrupt me?

21.) Trevor Crowe, OF
20.) Xavier Paul, OF
19.) Jordan Schafer, OF
18.) Drew Stubbs, OF
17.) Gerardo Parra, OF
16.) Julio Borbon, OF
15.) Everth Cabrera, SS
14.) John Mayberry, OF
13.) Jason Jaramillo, C
12.) Tommy Everidge, 1b
11.) Michael Saunders, OF/3b


10.) Nolan Reimold, LF
Reimold has had typical rookie year ups & downs, but he's been able to do something right. I haven't looked up the numbers, but he's probably putting together quality at bats and driving in runs with timely hitting, or he's brainwashed his manager, coaches, and teammates with a really good first impression.

9.) Elvis Andrus, SS
Ramiro Pena is a world class all-glove, no-hit shortstop. Andrus, on the other hand, is an all-glove, no-hit shortstop prospect with youth, speed, and most importantly opportunity on his side. He's shown enough bat control to avoid outs just enough to be productive, while playing outstanding defense up the middle.

8.) Chris Coghlan, OF/3b
Coghlan hasn't used his 3b experience in the show, but his ability to get on base has made him the leadoff hitter of one of the most potent offenses in the league. He has fringe power and fringe speed, but a knack for taking walks, avoiding outs, and scoring runs. We think he has a chance to become one of those productive player, professional hitter type guys. I wonder what team he'll be on after the Marlins.

7.) Kyle Blanks, OF/1b
While Coghlan's skills are generally thought of as reliable, Blanks is a riskier prospect. I mean that in the most literal way. His body type (huge) has a higher risk of injury, but it also has a higher risk of reward. If a kid this big and strong can learn to become a professional hitter, he will hit homeruns out of any ballpark. That is paramount to a Padres prospect, like Blanks. It'd be interesting to see how good the Padres can be after they get a bunch of good players for Heath Bell and especially Adrian Gonzalez.

6.) Fernando Martinez, OF
Fernando Martinez looked completely overmatched during his stint with the Mets. Heck, his career OBP in the Minor Leagues isn't even impressive. In the Minors, he strikes out too much and doesn't steal bases well, at all. All that being said, he is only 20 years old. He's a young player for Double A, so his struggles in Triple A and the big leagues can be forgiven. F-Mart i6'1", 190 lbs, and in a few years I think he'll be at least as good as Adam Jones.

5.) Matt LaPorta, OF
Highly touted prospect, Matt LaPorta, became a household name in some households when the Indians traded C.C. Sabathia for a package built around LaPorta. Some of Matt's minor league numbers have been Herculean, like his .384 OBP and .557 SLG. His performance at the Major League level has left something to be desired, but this guy should develop into a pretty dependable middle of the order bat.

4.) Gordon Beckham, 3b
Beckham was a floppy haired B.M.O.C. at the University of Georgia last year. Kenny Williams selected him with the 8th overall pick in the draft fourteen months ago, and today he stands as a vital part of the White Sox. Beckham had a great spring, didn't make the Opening Day roster, but made the most of his time with the big club since his debut on June 4th.

3.) Colby Rasmus, OF
Rasmus had a disappointing 2008, or else he would have debut'd last year around the time Jay Bruce became everyone's favorite Natural. It seems like just yesterday that the Prospect Smackdown showcased Jay Bruce vs. Colby Rasmus. Over here at BAseball Reality Tour, we do not like Colby Rasmus. He's too good. He's on the Cardinals. He's not even that good, yet, and the Cardinals are in first place. We really hate the Cardinals. They are so freaking consistent. With Dave Duncan at Pitching Coach, they could sign Dave Dravecky this offseason, and he's win a at least a dozen games next year.

2.) Andrew McCutcheon, CF
Last year at this time, I had a Google reminder set for "Andrew McCutcheon". I wanted to get an email every single time a new article with the words "Andrew McCutcheon" appeared. I was trying to patiently await his arrival, and I didn't want to miss out when he got called up because I thought he was the next power/speed superstar. Anyway, reading so much about him oddly made my interest wane. Here is another example of missing out on someone pretty special. He does a very good job of filling out the box score with hits, runs, steals, etc. He's had some unexpected power outbursts, and he's been a very valuable member of the Pirates. Seeing him run live is breathtaking, as well. He's not Usain Bolt, but he has as good of wheels as anyone in the game right now.

1.) Matt Wieters, C
I don't know why I still have Wieters listed at #1 on any list. He has disappointed fantasy owners around the world. The Orioles are still happy because they aren't playing for wins this season, he's getting to learn lessons about defense, calling a game, handling this young staff, and learning the tendencies of opposing big league players. He still has the unmistakable tools of size, strength, balance, and coordination. I think I'm putting him here because I'm afraid of cringing when I look back in a few years and see that I had Matt Wieters ranked below Matt LaPorta. Seriously, though, looking at Wieters' numbers, he has been outperformed by #13 on this list, Jason Jaramillo.

Did we leave anyone important out of the list? Are there any injustices we must answer for?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Power Arms of the Future

This post began as a prospect report on Giants' farmhand, Madison Bumgarner. We started out thinking about him but couldn't find anything to really write about. Well, other than he's a tall, hard-throwing lefty.

It made us want to compare his promise to that of other young pitchers. We started thinking about ranking a subgroup of guys that included Brandon Morrow, Edwin Jackson, Phil Hughes, and even Randy Wells. Considering whether we included some guys, like Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez, made it too tough to quantify any qualifications for making the list.

Since we didn't want to get into who's a rookie and who isn't, we're going to keep it clear and rank the Top 25 pitchers who made their Major League debut this season...

25.) Daniel Schlereth
24.) Matt Daley
23.) Koji Uehara
22.) Brad Bergesen
21.) Ryan Perry
20.) Kenshin Kawakami
19.) Vin Mazzaro
18.) Brett Cecil
17.) Marc Rzepczynksi
16.) Jordan Zimmermann
15.) Brian Matusz
14.) Andrew Bailey
13.) Aaron Poreda
12.) Trevor Cahill
11.) Ricky Romero

10.) Junichi Tazawa
My first instinct was to think that Tazawa was not a true youngster and that he had already enjoyed a successful run as a pro in Japan. However, actually looking it up shows me that he's just 23 years old and he did not play professionally in Japan. Scouting reports on Tazawa show that he can be a solid Major Leaguer. He lacks a mid to upper 90's fastaball, but he has movement on his two seamer and seems to throw enough offspeed pitches to make him successful. I think he'll have some growing pains and some bad starts, but he should get run support for the next few seasons, at least.

9.) Brett Anderson
I have been a slow adopter to the values of Brett Anderson. I think it's because of his white bread name that I've never been intrigued enough to consider his efficacy. He still makes me think of Brian Anderson, who stinks. But, look at Anderson's stats, and his 39 BB's to 109 K's speak volumes.

8.) Derek Holland
Here's a guy that I have been following all season. First, they started him off slowly, in the bullpen. He became the swing man/6th starter and finally got a firm spot in the rotation after the Rangers got rid of Vicente Padilla. He's had tremendous moments, and some awful stinkers. So, he's the ultimate risk/reward guy on this list. I'm thinking that he will continue his success throwing ground balls and striking out enough guys to overcome the Rangers' home ballpark.

7.) Daniel Bard
Bard is one of those guys with a fastball that jumps out of his hands. As we've shown in this space over and over again, our eyes can deceive us. Bard has had some stretches of inconsistency, while showing brilliant stretches where no-one can even get a good swing on him. We have no doubt that he will have a succesful career. He's been put in the bullpen at a young age, which reduces the innate risk of injury that all these guys have. Don't tell that to Joel Zumaya, but it's true.

6.) Chris Tillman
Apologies to Brian Matusz, but I am in the Chris Tillman camp, if I had to pick one. Matusz will probably also have a great career, and these guys are two of the many reason I think the O's will compete in 2011. Chris Tillman looks like a tall power pitcher who's going to get better and better. I saw him two starts ago, and he reminded me of Josh Johnson, the way he fearlessly threw his fastball for strikes. In his past game, he got touched up for 3 solo HR's. You're not gonna get killed giving up solo HR's. He's on the right track.

5.) Bud Norris
The future of the Astros is in good hands if this guy keeps progressing. He's shown to throw a lot of sliders (almost 40%), and his changeup has also been effective about 5% of the time. ZiPS has him for a 5.50 ERA the rest of the way, so they aren't too favorable on him. I think that probably has a lot ot do with his 4 BB's / 9IP, which needs to be lowered.

4.) Mat Latos
This guy has a chance to be the Chris Anderson of baseball. He's inked up, and he has a cockiness that his manager euphemistically termed "confidence". I love his potential in Petco Park. He's shown the ability to strike people out, and his flyball rendencies should play well in home games.

3.) Rick Porcello
Had baby faced Rick Porcello stayed in school, he'd be a sophomore in college. The fact that he's been the #3 starter for a division leading Tigers team is amazing. The Tigers gambled a lot that he could make the jump from Single A. Hearing the legend of Porcello grow during Spring Training, we had very high hopes. He hasn't disappointed at all for the Tigers, but as for being a fantasy ace, he lacks the strikeouts. We have him here because he is young enough to learn a strikeout pitch, maybe tighten up the slider or learn to locate it and his fastball a bit better.

2.) Neftali Feliz
Hearing scouts talk about any young fireballer can often lead itself open to hyperbole. Watching this whiz kid effortlessly get big league hitters out makes the grandest exaggeration seem possible. I'm trying not to spout out something I'll regret later, so let me just show that going into Saturday night's game, Neftali had faced 39 batters, gave up 4 hits, walked no-one, and struck out 17. He's great, and he has yet to even learn how to pitch.

1.) Tommy Hanson
The Braves waited and waited... people scoffed, "the Braves don't have five pitchers better than Hanson."... Clearly, the Braves were hedging their bets. They were seasoning the prospect in Triple-A, while kicking the tires of old friend, Tom Glavine. Once it was irrefutable that Hanson was better than Glavine and the majority of the Braves' staff, the kid got the call. He has not disappointed at all. His poor starts are above average, and he's shown the skills to battle and win when his stuff is less than sharp.

Did we leave anyone important off the list? Probably, and... please let us know in the comments section.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fare Thee Well, Mr. Latos

Warning: I expect no-one to care about this quick post. Still, our imaginary sponsors thank you for your support.

I'm trying to keep the creative juices flowing... trying to get back in the swing of posting the thoughts that come to me during the season.


No-one should care about my roto league... I shouldn't even care as much as I do. I follow the guys on my team and expect them to play in a way that represents my values & ideals. That's just plain silly.


Still, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and loss at the same time because yesterday I traded rookie pitcher, Mat Latos, for Miguel Cabrera. Of course, that is not an even trade - if all things are equal. However, in my league all things are not equal. We are allowed to keep five guys who are drafted after the 4th round. Since MiggyCab is a bonafide 1st rounder, he's not a keeper. Mat Latos, on the other hand was not drafted this season; I picked him up a few weeks ago. In his first 5 major league starts, he's won four games and created enough buzz that we could trade him for one of the most valuable hitters in the game.


Since my team is competing for the title, I didn't think twice about making the deal. We still need more pitching, but since there are rumblings that Latos may get shut down due to innings limits, it was an obvious move.


In my efforts to make a formal plea, I wish that Latos pitches well tonight against St. Louis for a couple of reasons. First, he's pitching against St. Louis, and I hate St. Louis. I hate them more than the White Sox, so that's saying something. Second, he's still on my active roster because the trade was approved after games started today.


So, as Bob Dylan would say, "Fare thee well, Mr. Latos." Let's get another win tonight, then you can go ahead and continue your career for another.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Value Over/Under

Today's exercise looks at some of baseball's most overpaid and underpaid players, based on their '09 performance. Hopefully, this will be informative, fun, or at the very least: tolerable.

Special thanks to Fangraphs and Cot's Baseball Contracts.

First, we'll look at the most overpaid... all figures in millions (salary / value / net loss)...

C: Kenji Johjima, Mariners, s: $8 / v: $1.4 / nl: $6.6
1b: Todd Helton, Rockies, s: $16.6 / v: $7.5 / nl: $9.1
2b: Alexi Casilla, Twins, s: $0.4275 / v: (-$6.2) / nl: $6.6275
SS: Alex Gonzalez, Reds, s: $5.375 / v: (-$3.6) / nl: $8.975
3b: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, s: $32 / v: $10.8 / nl: $21.2
LF: Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, s: $16 / v: $1.6 / nl: $14.4
CF: Gary Matthews Jr, Angels, s: $10 / v (-$5.7) / nl: $15.7
RF: Jose Guillen, Royals, s: $12 / v: (-$7.8) / nl: $19.8
SP: Oliver Perez, Mets, s: $12 / v: (-$2.5) / nl: $14.5
RP: Brad Lidge, Phillies, s: $11.5 / value (-$3.6) / nl: $15.1

All else being equal, this presents Jose Guillen as the worst investment in 2009. Todd Helton and Arod are having decent seasons, showing significant value. They made this team because their contracts are so huge. Real disappointments at 1b are Carlos Delgado and Chad Tracy. The biggest '09 busts at 3b are Eric Chavez and Garrett Atkins. The other thing to keep in mind is if we are counting all dollars spent towards a player, Daisuke Matsuzaka would be our starting pitcher. Taking a 1/6th prorated portion of the $51,111,111 posting fee the Red Sox paid the Seibu Lions for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K would make him a $17 million loss this season. Last point, the Detroit Tigers have three players who barely missed making the team. Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, and Dontrelle Willis are all more than 10 million wastes this season.

Now, let's look at the most underpaid "team" of 2009... again, figures in millions (salary / value / net gain)...

C: Joe Mauer, Twins, s: $10.5 / v: $21.3 / ng: $10.8
1b: Adrian Gonzalez, Padres, s: $3 / v: $16.3 / ng: $13.3
2b: Ben Zobrist, Rays, s: $0.4159 / v: $24.2 / ng: $23.7841
SS: Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays, s: $1.1 / v: $18.8 / ng: $17.7
3b: Evan Longoria, Rays, s: $0.55 / v: $20.4 / ng: $19.85
LF: Nyjer Morgan, Nationals, s: $0.4115 / v: $17.3 / ng: $16.8885
CF: Matt Kemp, Dodgers, s: $0.465 / v: $21.9 / ng: $21.435
RF: Justin Upton, D'backs, s: $0.412 / v: $17.5 / ng: $17.088
SP: Tim Lincecum, Giants, s $0.65 / v: $29.6 / ng: $28.95
RP: Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers, s: $1.825 / v: $9.8 / ng: $7.975

Scutaro and Morgan are certainly surprises on this list, as they barely edged out a couple of superstars at shortstop and left field, respectively. Morgan's real value comes from defense, while Scutaro has combined with Aaron Hill to form the best valued double play combination in the game. Who are the superstars that almost made the team? Hanley Ramirez ($17.2mm) and Ryan Braun ($16.655mm).

Feel free to add thoughts to our comments section. What does this show us? Anything? Who's the biggest disappointment? (Soriano? Lidge?) Biggest pleasant surprise? (Zobrist?) Our methodology of coming up with this list is anything but scientific? Are there any players that should have been mentioned that weren't?

As the great Tony Kornheiser says on PTI, "Over/Under is over!"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Monthly Pulse, August

Yesterday's trading deadline has solidified the rosters of most contenders. We can expect more movement than usual in August trades this season because more teams will be wary of claiming a player on waivers, due to fears of being stuck with their salaries.

The past few weeks have been extremely impactful, both in performance on the field and transactions outside the lines. Teams in Houston, Florida, plus both Chicago franchises improved their auras in July, while other teams like Seattle, Milwaukee, and the Mets extinguished all glimmers of hope.

Here's our monthly snapshot of what we feel will happen this October...

Playoff Teams
National League
Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, & Cardinals (wc)
American League
Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, & Yankees (wc)

MVP
NL: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Cy Young
NL: Tim Lincecum, Giants
AL: Roy Halladay, Blue Jays

Rookie of the Year
NL: Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
AL: Elvis Andrus, Rangers

Manager of the Year
NL: Tony LaRussa, Cardinals
AL: Ron Washington, Rangers

Postseason Predictions
NLDS
Cubs over Phillies
Dodgers over Cardinals

NLCS
Cubs over Dodgers
ALDS
Red Sox over Angels
Yankees over Tigers

ALCS
Red Sox over Yankees

2009 World Series
Red Sox over Cubs

Divisional At-a-Glance
Please keep in mind, this is part of our running experiment of what we are "thinking" on the first of each month. We will always stick with our Opening Day predictions for any sort of record keeping. This is more of a monthly diary of the soap opera that is major league baseball.

NL East
The Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro Jr, did a fantastic service to the obnoxious fans of Philadelphia. He got them another frontline starter with Cy Young credentials, Cliff Lee, without giving up key prospects Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown, or Michael Taylor. This vaults the Phillies to favorites to win the National League again this season, while being competitive for years to come.

The Marlins and Braves have done an admirable job of staying in the hunt. Florida made a nice move acquiring Nick Johnson, from the Nationals. He will help them with his ability to get on base, as well as his ability to get Emilio Bonifacio and his .270 wOBA. The Braves have also been practicing the art of addition by subtraction. They jettisoned Jeff Francoeur and Casey Kotchman out of town and relewgated Kelly Johnson to the bench, in favor of Martin Prado.

The Mets have truly become an embarrassment. First, the team played lousy ball and never picked up the slack when veterans starting dropping to the DL. Then, Tony Bernazard took his shirt off to challenge the Double-A affiliate to a postgame fight. Finally, in the press conference to announce Tony B's dismissal, GM Omar Minaya acted like a lunatic and accused the Daily News' Adam Rubin of having inpure motives reporting the story, even though the story was true. While the Nationals are the worst club in this division, but they are working to get themselves out of the Jim Bowden hole. Minaya and the Mets seem to be going in the wrong direction.

NL Central
The Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, and Brewers are involved in what could be the best race of the year. We feel the Astros & Brewers may have fallen into the second tier of these teams. Injuries to Berkman and Oswalt may be too much for Houston to overcome. Plus, neither team made any last minute moves to get better. Felipe Lopez was an exciting move by the Brewers, but the Brewers need to get more pitching to improve their standing. Maybe they can find some that gets through waivers. Sorry Cheeseheads, but signing Corey Patterson is definitely not a step in the right direction.

Walt Jocketty & Dusty Baker of the Reds are crazy if they think that Scott Rolen is ever going to play a postseason game for them. We noted in this space last week that he looks horrible. Sure, he's been productive in 88 games this year, with slash numbers of .320/.370/.476. His power has diminished, through injury and aging, so he appropriately only has eight home runs. Anyway, the Reds are too far away from seriously competing. What's worse, they actually gave up a couple of good pitchers in this deal, which is what they actually need. I don't see the Reds being a factor at anytime during the rest of Rolen's career.

NL West
As we've known all season, the Dodgers will win this division. I love the addition of George Sherrill to the bullpen. He and Broxton are going to be incredible together. Against lefties this season, Sherrill's OPS allowed has been a mindboggling .356. Again, that is a .356 On-Base PLUS Slugging. (h/t R.J. Anderson)

The Giants improved their hitting enough that I think they will finish in second place, ahead of the Rockies, D'backs, and Padres. It's an interesting bit of computations that has baseball prospectus postseason odds showing the Rockies as the most likely team to win the NL Wild Card. Going into Saturday's games, Colorado had a 52% chance of winning the wildcard.

AL East
The titans of industry still reside in the AL East. The Yankees are in first place. Their offense is terrific, and they've been getting marvelous pitching from a variety of places, namely Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Mariano Rivera. I can't say I like the Jerry Hairston trade, but at least they aren't trading the farm for a number 3 or 4 starter.

Boston has struggled lately to score runs, plus they've suffered from poor defense and some inconsistency in the starting rotation. Their recent acquisition of Victor Martinez should help them score runs, but he offers little more than flexibility with the leather. He can allow them to platoon Varitek, Lowell, and Ortiz at the C/3b/DH spot, while having Victor play everyday. On days he plays first, Kevin Youkilis will slide over to third.

Tampa didn't make any moves, but they're the defending champs. They need their starting rotation to carry them on a tremendous hot streak the rest of the way, if they're going to make the playoffs. That means that Scott Kazmir and David Price need to pitch a lot better. I think Price is a better bet to figure it out. Kazmir looks/sounds injured to me.

The Blue Jays and Orioles aren't in the class of the above three, yet. The O's have the best quadruple-A team in the major leagues. Chris Tillman made his splash last week, and I expect continued success from the, as Harry Caray would say, "tall, handsome, young pitcher".

My instincts tell me that Toronto erred in holding on to Halladay. They won't get as much for him in the offseason, or next year. Hopefully, for them, they'll have a better season next year and have Halladay pitching meaningful games. They have a lot of good pitchers, and should be able to build an offense around Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Travis Snider, Edwin Encarnacion, the Wells/Rios Experience, and power hitting catcher J.P. Arecibia.

AL Central
I've been leaning towards the Twins all year, while still leaving hope for Jimmy Leyland's club in Detroit. In fact, earlier this spring or summer, I went to a baby naming ceremony. At the point of the service where they ask people for anyone that they would like to have blessed, a gentleman who was also there for the baby naming asked the rabbi to bless Jeremy Bonderman. Afterwards, I discussed baseball with this old-school Tigers fan from Detroit.
The first thing I mentioned to him endearingly was, "I love Jim Leyland." Sorry, that's neither here nor there. I have two reasons to pick the Tigers right now. First, is the chance that Jonah Keri is right, and Jarrod Washburn has reinvented himself with a new pitch and a new attitude, ala Cliff Lee last season.

The Twins' chances took a blow when they lost Kevin Slowey for the season, and that's the second reason I'm predicting the Tigers will finish first. But, I have to consider that this is just Kevin Slowey. He's not really that fantastic. Although it seems extremely unlikely, if Francisco Liriano can have a vintage second half, they'll be in contention the last week of the season.

If I had to pick, I'd say the White Sox will finish in second place. I've never liked them, as you know, but they did get a stud in Peavy. He may not be lights out ever again in his career, but if he can throw, he'll be able to win games. The White Sox also have some potential thunder to call up in September with trade chip Josh Fields and Double-A baby Dayan Viciedo.

The Indians had an eventful July, retooling their farm system after sending Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez packing, along with Mark DeRosa, Rafael Betancourt, and Ben Francisco. I've been a fan of Justin Masterson for some time now. It'll be nice to see if they give him a chance to start this season. Carlos Carrasco, whom they got from Philadelphia in the Lee deal, should be a starter for them no later than next spring. According to Keith Law, he doesn't have any plus pitches, but he does have three above average pitches.

The Royals so bad... I mean, look at what the Yuniesky Betancourt trade has done to Joe Posnanski.

AL West
The AL West is rapidly becoming a very likeable division. The Angels and Athletics have ruled this land for quite a while. I've always appreciated the Angels National League style of play, as well as the way Mike Scioscia can build a bullpen with nasty boys at the end. The A's, of course, have the Hollywood story of Moneyball and their hotshot GM, Billy Beane, who builds competive rosters (usually) despite miniscule payrolls.

I begun to love rooting for Nolan Ryan and Jack Zduriencik, who are currently running the Rangers and Mariners, respectively. They each have been charged with the daunting task of rebuilding two lousy franchises, and they each have a process I respect.

Ryan has a philosophy on pitching that is different from others in the game. He's protecting his young pitchers, but he also has them strengthen their arms and throw more in the offseason than any team outside of Japan.

Jack Z, as he's affectionately called by the supportive Seattle faithful, has a decent payroll budget and a beautiful stadium in Seattle. He unfortunately also inherited Bill Bavasi's roster. As most of you know, Bill Bavasi was probably a worse GM than Jim Bowden. Let us never forget that Bavasi is the guy who gave Carlos Silva 48 million dollars and acquired an over-the-hill Jose Vidro to be his Designated Hitter. Anyway, I digress. Jack Z got my attention and respect when he first assumed the position of GM. He layed out his process and clearly implemented a staff that combines some of the sharpest minds in scouting and sabermetrics. He hired Tom Tango as a consultant, for crying out loud.
What does all of this tell us? Nothing really. It's likely going to be the Yankees and Red Sox battling it out against the Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs, or Cardinals. Maybe the best thing about this great game is how even the lousy teams have great stories, great characters. Until we meet again, go cubbies...