August 1, 2013

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MLB Contenders Post Trade Deadline

By: Matt Bowen

Now that the dust on settled on the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline, we can focus our attention on the true contenders. It’s now August, this is the time where the cream rises to the top. MLB GM’s believing that this is their year have spent the last couple of weeks trying to feverishly hammer out deals to put their team on top when it’s all said and done. As baseball fans we now get to sit back and watch the drama unfold. The next two months will be pure entertainment as every division except the NL East is up for grabs.

So, what is to be expected down the stretch? Who were the real winners at the deadline?

AL East: Per the usual, the AL East will be one of the most interesting races until the end. The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Baltimore Orioles are all in contention.

The Rays were the quiet, only acquiring left reliever Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox. Crain is currently on the DL, but has electric stuff out of the bullpen. This was a low-risk, high-reward kind of deal for the Rays—if Crain returns healthy they win, if he doesn’t, the compensation towards the White Sox will be next to nothing.

The Baltimore Orioles proved to their fan base that they plan on winning now and forever. They traded for starting pitchers Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs and Bud Norris of the Houston Astros along with reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers. Nice work from the Orioles front office.

While the Orioles made plenty of noise, the Boston Sox stole the show in the division. The acquisition of pitcher Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox made headlines as the Red Sox appear to be legit. They also picked up left-handed reliever Matt Thornton from the White Sox. For a team that lost 93 games in 2012, they have certainly changed their course. The Bo Sox have Boston buzzing at the moment.

AL Central: This division is a two horse race that won’t be settled until the final days of the season. The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are the two best teams in the Central and only got better at the deadline. Both teams picked up necessary relief help with Marc Rzepczynski headed to Cleveland from the St. Louis Cardinals and Jose Veras to Detroit from the Houston Astros.

In the end, it was the Tigers who made out best though. They were involved in the trade with the Sox, both White and Red, that sent the aforementioned Peavy to Beantown, shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers and young prospect Avasail Garcia to Chicago, along with others.

The Tigers need a shortstop with the suspension of Jhonny Peralta seeming imminent. Peralta, who is involved in the Biogenesis mess, is also a free agent as the end of the season, so picking up the talented 23-year-old Iglesias now is a stroke of genius.

While the Tigers will benefit the most now in the division, the White Sox may have gotten the best player out of the deal. Garcia has star written all over him, but with a crowded outfield in Detroit, it was a price that had to be paid.

Regarding the race in the Central, neither the Tigers nor Indians will quit. As of August 1, they’re two of the hottest teams in all of baseball. The two teams face each other seven more times in 2013 with the last game on September 1.  Both teams won at the deadline, but who will win the division?

AL West: Still in disbelief that the Oakland A’s are truly good? Don’t be, this team is for real, but did the division leader do enough? They swapped a minor leaguer for infielder Alberto Callaspo from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to shore up their defense. Where they swung and missed is in the pitching department. For decades the A’s were sellers at the deadline and this year, when they needed it most they couldn’t land a prized trade target to take the hill.

This means their rival the Texas Rangers were the true winners in the division at the deadline. They got starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs and seem to be in a groove right now. True, the A’s are still the team to beat, but the Rangers won’t go away. Now that the A’s seem to have crosshairs on their back, can they hold onto the West?

NL East: No contest here—the Atlanta Braves have a double-digit game lead in the division and the small and subtle acquisition of reliever Scott Downs from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim only made them better. Overall, the NL East has been a dud this season. Maybe 2014 will bring more competition. The Braves will skate into the playoffs.

NL Central: Baseball’s best division had an interesting trade deadline this time around. While the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs were heavy sellers, and for good reason, the top three teams were rather stagnant. This is a very peculiar situation, the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds were all quiet. The Pirates, who currently lead the division tried but could not land a big-name right fielder. The Cardinals didn’t make a splash and the Reds needed a viable two-hole hitter to bolster their lineup but did next to nothing. Content with what they have, all teams are now on board with their current rosters. This was disappointing on all accounts. If a winner had to be chosen, it would have to be the Cards, who seem to always find a way to win.

NL West: Let’s not forget about the NL West—there’s no west coast bias here, but the deadline proved that only the Los Angeles Dodgers are the real thing. They snatched up coveted pitcher Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins and had the luxury of signing charismatic reliever Brian Wilson. Since rookie Yasiel Puig was called up earlier in the year the team has been on fire. In just 50 games Puig is batting .364 as of August 1—most importantly he’s instilled some swagger in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.

The Dodgers payroll may be bigger than many small countries’ annual GDP, but they are now looking like they are worth every penny. Move over Hollywood, the Dodgers are now the big stars in town.

March 27, 2012

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Perfect MLB Fantasy Team

By: Joe Williams

My league had our MLB fantasy baseball draft recently. As always, I got some of the guys I wanted and missed out on a few as well. But since my draft has come and gone I don’t have to worry about the other guys in my league knowing who I want on my team. Therefore, I will give you a rundown of what my ideal team would look like. It’s not like I had much to worry about, anyway. Chances are none of those guys would have seen this since most of them can barely even read. (Bazinga!) Trash talking your league members is one of the best parts of a fantasy league. Anyway, here’s who I would realistically try to take going by the average draft position on the site my league uses.

Round 1            Miguel Cabrera, 1B

I want my first pick to be a sure thing. Cabrera has put up an average of .320 batting average with 33 home runs, 115 RBI and 102 runs for the last eight years. That’s as much of a sure thing as you will find.

Round 2            Carlos Gonzalez, OF

Again, I want a sure thing if I can get it. Gonzalez has had at least 25 home runs, 20 steals, 90 runs and 90 RBI to go with a .295 average for the last two seasons. He is the real deal.

Round 3            Jose Reyes, SS

Here’s a guy who has led the league in steals and in batting average. Reyes joins a Miami team that has loaded up on talent and brought in Ozzie Guillen to manage. Guillen had the White Sox running a lot and he should do the same in Miami.

Round 4            Michael Bourn, OF

Just in case Reyes isn’t 100 percent healthy and his steals come down again, adding Bourn will make up for it in a hurry. You can pencil him in for 50 steals and he gives you a solid batting average as well.

Round 5            Zack Greinke, SP

Greinke will be nearly as good as the biggest name pitchers in baseball but will cost you a much lower pick to get him.

Round 6            Carlos Santana, C

There aren’t a lot of great catchers so if you get one of them you will have a big advantage at at least one position.

Round 7            Carl Crawford, OF

If Crawford is still available in the 7th round you better jump on him. He had injury problems last year and was a big disappointment. I believe he will bounce back big time.

Round 8            Kevin Youkilis, 3B

Here’s another guy who had a disappointing year in 2011 and should be better in 2012. Youkilis could end up being a steal.

After a down year last season, Youkilis could be the steal you need to bolster your lineup.

Round 9            Brian Wilson, RP

This guy is awesome. I want Wilson on my team regardless of what he does on the field but it just so happens that he can pitch.

Round 10          Josh Johnson, SP

Because of his injury history this is a high-risk, high-reward pick. Go for it. You aren’t playing for third place are you?

Round 11          Matt Garza, SP

I’m a Cubs fan. I always need a Cub. I choose Garza.

Round 12          Heath Bell, RP

He’s going to a better team which will hopefully translate into more saves.

Round 13          Brandon Beachy, SP

He averaged almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings last year.

Round 14          Torii Hunter, OF

Hunter is a solid player and the addition of Albert Pujols should help everyone in the Angels lineup.

Round 15          Ryan Roberts, 2B

You are going to have a weak spot somewhere. This is mine. And it’s not that bad.

Round 16          Emilio Bonifacio, SS

I love guys that can play multiple positions because they provide lineup flexibility.

Round 17          Josh Willingham, OF

Not a guy people will be desperate to get, but always gives you at least 20 long balls.

From this point on in the draft, grab as many high-upside players as you can. If they don’t pan out, you can always drop them and find someone else.

March 21, 2011

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Can Giants Repeat As Champs?

By: Anson Whaley

With only about a week left in Spring Training, baseball teams are gearing up for the regular season. Managers are sweating over cuts that are being made, rookies are being assigned to the minor leagues, and General Managers are hoping free agent signings pay off in a big way. But the San Francisco Giants are the only team thinking about what it would be like to repeat as World Series Champions. The Giants have lost a few pieces but are returning most of their team’s core to make another run at the title in 2011.

The most notable departures are shortstops Juan Uribe and World Series Most Valuable Player, Edgar Renteria. Uribe signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers while Renteria is headed to the St. Louis Cardinals. Uribe is the greater loss, as he was one of the team’s greatest power threats (24 home runs in 2010) and, at 31 years old, is just now entering the prime of his career. Renteria is a five-time All-Star and Gold Glove winning shortstop and has 15 major league seasons under his belt. Last year, that experience paid off for the Giants as he batted over .400 and slugged two big home runs in the World Series.

Fortunately for the Giants, they filled the gaping hole left at shortstop with a very capable player in free agent pickup Miguel Tejada. Now 36, Tejada is likely a short-term replacement and also past his prime. But he’s still a solid player and, in 2010, hit 15 home runs and batted .269. The best news for the Giants is that Tejada has also shown he’s extremely durable, playing at least 150 games in 11 of the past 12 seasons.

But if San Francisco is to repeat, it’s not going to be Tejada that makes the difference – it will be the pitching. With all the talk about the Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation which will include Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and newly-signed Cliff Lee, the Giants have a somewhat underrated staff in comparison. The starters are led by two-time Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum, and also includes former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito, All-Star Matt Cain, young star Madison Bumgarner, and Jonathan Sanchez, who has thrown a no-hitter. The Giants also added free agent Jeff Suppan to the mix, and he could contend for a spot in the rotation in 2011.

Lincecum is the gem, however, and is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Even though his 2010 numbers dropped off slightly from his Cy Young years of 2008 and 2009, he still managed to win 16 games and strikeout 231 batters in only 212 innings pitched. Lincecum also thrived in his first postseason with a 4-1 record, a shutout over the Atlanta Braves, and a combined ERA of only 2.43 – a full run lower than his regular season average.

The pitching talent isn’t limited to the starting rotation, though. All-Star closer, Brian Wilson, led the league in saves with 48 and had a microscopic ERA of 1.81. Setup men Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla also combined for 12 wins and had ERAs of 2.18 and 1.95 respectively.  The Giants may have the most talented bullpen in the majors.

Offensively, the Giants’ lineup isn’t as strong as some teams, and, with the loss of Uribe, it just became a little weaker. The Giants aren’t completely devoid of power, but Aubrey Huff led the way in 2010 with only 26 home runs—the Giants may not have that one player capable of hitting 35-40 to serve as a legitimate longball threat. The player closest may be 2010 Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey, who as a first-year player hit 18 home runs in only 108 games.  He’s a catcher, though, so Posey won’t be playing a full 162-game season. But he is only 23 and should develop into an excellent power hitter for many years to come, possibly approaching 30 home runs this season if he stays healthy.

But again, it’s the pitching that will lead this team…and they’ve got plenty of it to make another World Series run in 2011.