3/30/09

Team Preview Wrapup

Well, it looks like we bit off a bit more than we could chew with our ambitious team previews. Time constraints got in the way, and we're going to just cut our losses now rather than try to finish the remaining 17 teams in 6 days. But we feel like it'd be irresponsible of us to just leave most of the league completely unpreviewed, so here you go: divisional previews. We'll write a bit about each team that we haven't already previewed, and give a projected record. Plus, in the interest of transparency, we'll tell you where they fit in our list of teams we like, from 1-30, since we're sure you're very interested. Good times!

AL East

Tampa Bay Rays, 98-64. #13

Previewed here

New York Yankees, 94-68. #23

The Yankees did great by them in adding Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira, but we still have concerns about their outfield and third base situations. They have a large group of guys in the grass who can play, but none of them exceptionally well. Johnny Damon (old), Nick Swisher (not so talented), Melky Cabrera (same), Hideki Matsui (too injured to play OF regularly), Xavier Nady (fluky career year), Brett Gardner (young, but maybe promising)...who ya got?! Plus, A-Rod's torn hip labrum is what Chase Utley suffered from last year that sapped his power during the second half. If the surgery doesn't work out so well, and he can't put up his MVP-caliber numbers, there's no great power threat in the lineup. Plus, they're counting on A.J. Burnett to stay healthy. Well, gents, since it's not a contract year, we don't think that's in the cards.

Boston Red Sox, 93-69. #30

We really don't care for the Red Sox, but that's not coloring our judgment here (we swear! Really!). We just have what we think are well-founded concerns. If Jacoby Ellsbury improves his plate discipline, he can be a great leadoff man, and if Jed Lowrie continues to progress, they could be solid from top to near-bottom (since Jason Varitek may be the worst-hitting starting backstop in the majors). Dustin Pedroia is great, but not up to the level of most MVPs, and David Ortiz has got to show that he can recover both mentally and physically from last year's torn tendon sheath. Jason Bay should be solid - though he's no Manny! - but Kevin Youkilis played a little above his head in terms of power; we refer you to the inimitable Hit Tracker to tell you why. They track every home run hit in the majors, and do all sorts of fun stuff to tell you more about them. We can't explain it all here, but if you check out Youkilis' page there, you'll see that his vaunted 13-HR increase was helped by 12 "just enough" bombs. What's just enough? Take it away, Hit Tracker: "[Just enough] means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones that barely made it over the fence." Good luck improving on that, Youk! The pitching staff should be well above average though; we love Beckett and Lester, and Matsuzaka should be solid despite an inevitable regression after he got very lucky with his strand rate last year. Between our hero John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Michael Bowden, Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz, and Tim Wakefield, they should be able to cover the last two spots, and the bullpen should be solid as well.

Baltimore Orioles, 78-84. #4

Previewed here

Toronto Blue Jays, 74-88. #18

Team Canada can't hit to save their lives. Our goodness, this is a terrible lineup, so much so that we're really glad we don't have to watch their games. Alex Rios is good, but he just can't be the best hitter in your lineup if you're really serious about contending. He might hit 20 jacks, and we suppose Vernon Wells could do the miraculous and drop 20 bombs as well, but beyond them there's not much hope unless rookie bopper Travis Snider can put up some numbers. Whither Frank Thomas, we ask! As for the other side of affairs, well, the pitching was much better last season than it will be this year. Shawn Marcum is out for the year, and Dustin McGowan might be, too. A.J. Burnett, of course, is gone as well, so there go starters 2-4 behind a KCSD favorite, Doc Halladay. Jesse Litsch and Casey Janssen are talented, and can help fill the gap, but they're not going to be up to the levels of their predecessors, and filler like David Purcey, Scott Richmond, Matt Clement, and Bryan Bullington isn't going to get the job done. Overall, there's not a whole lot to like here (besides Doc, of course).

AL Central

Detroit Tigers, 83-79. #3

Previewed here

Cleveland Indians, 82-78. #17

The Indians were remarkably bad with CC Sabathia playing ace, and remarkably good when he left. Ewing Theory! The lineup seemed to really gel in the second half, and with a healthy Victor Martinez swinging for them, they should be even better. Grady Sizemore is excellent, Super(utility)man Mark DeRosa is a great addition, Kelly Shoppach and Shin-Soo Choo showed a lot of promise last year, and Jhonny Peralta is severely underrated. If Travis Hafner somehow returns to form after two abysmal seasons, then they should win the division, but we think he's done. Which is sad, because we were at the game where they renamed the right field mezzanine Pronkville. Anyway, if the pitching is solid, this team should be in good shape. Cliff Lee won't be Cy Young Cliff Lee again, but if Fausto Carmona can be Cy Young Fausto Carmona again, then that's a decent trade. Scott Lewis, Anthony Reyes, Carl Pavano, Aaron Laffey, Jake Westbrook, and Jeremy Sowers should be able to cobble together enough quality appearances among them for the team to be ok from 3-5 in the rotation, and the bullpen looks great, especially if FA signee Kerry Wood can be healthy all year. And since you've already heard all the jokes that follow that statement, we'll just move right along.

Chicago White Sox, 80-82. #6

Previewed here

Kansas City Royals, 78-84. #5

Previewed here

Minnesota Twins, 76-86. #27

The Twins are just not a fun team in our eyes. For the time being, their games are almost unwatchable because they play in a dome..

Time for an aside: we really hate domed stadiums. We see how they can be useful, especially in sports like baseball where you the elements can take a real toll on the game. But they're so...ugly. And watching any sporting event played in a dome is just a pain on the eyes; it's so dark and depressing that, for us, it takes away from the fun of the game. We honestly don't think we could follow a team that played its home games shrouded in darkness. Although actually that sounds kinda cool.

ANYWAY the Twins will be much more likable when they get their new stadium. Probably. But for now, much as we admire Ron Gardenhire's managerial skills, we just don't find anything to like on this team besides Franciscio Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Joe Mauer. That's not to say there's not other good players; while no one is going to print t-shirts about them anytime soon, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey are all capable hurlers, and Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young are exciting young outfielders. But...we just don't see it all coming together for them. Their bullpen is a weak spot, and the lineup upholds the Twin tradition of being utterly punchless, save for Justin Morneau's mildly powerful bat.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels, 84-78. #14

We feel a lot worse about this projection ever since the job title of Los Angeles Angels' Starting Pitcher became dangerous enough to warrant its own show on the Discovery Channel. Former horse John Lackey is going to miss time this year with a forearm strain after a triceps injury shut him down for a while last year. Ervin Santana, just after breaking out, has injured his elbow, and will miss about a month - and more, if the scar tissue doesn't hold up, which we don't think it will. Kelvim Escobar, a very underrated hurler himself, is trying to recover from a torn labrum, though any significant contribution from him this year would be surprising, and Jered Weaver may be on the verge of breaking down, as declining numbers and strange mechanics suggest. But we think the lineup will be good enough to lead them to a title in the weak West; there's enough talent in the outfield for two teams, there's good speed from top to bottom that manager Mike Scioscia knows how to use, and we think catcher Mike Napoli (20 HR in under 80 games last year) is going to break out - assuming he can get healthy. If Kendry Morales can step up and post something resembling respectable numbers from a first baseman, this should be a balanced unit that will head straight to a first-round flameout. They'll be celebrating in the streets over that one, let us tell you.

Oakland Athletics, 82-80. #11

Previewed here

Seattle Mariners, 75-87. #10

We started to preview the Mariners at one point, and then sort of forgot about them. Oops! But it was basically a lot of doom and gloom, and making fun of them for posting 100 losses with a $100 million payroll, and so on and so forth. So be glad you didn't have to struggle through it. Anyway, we're still seeing mostly doom and gloom, but less of it than last year! Think of it as shades of grey instead of utter, soul-consuming blackness. Now isn't that better? The reason we're so hopeful is because we love King Felix and Jose Lopez, the latter somewhat irrationally. And they made some really solid offseason moves, which automatically makes Jack Z.., yeah Jack Z. a better GM than ousted Bald Bill Bavasi. Brandon Morrow has said he's going to close, which makes us less hopeful, since we'd have loved to see him starting, but in J.J. Putz's absence, we suppose the team had to do something. We don't like Erik Bedard, but he's a guy who can really put up some numbers when he's healthy, and we have high hopes for Aussie starter Ryan Rowland-Smith. Russell Branyan should be an upgrade on Richie Sexson, and prospects Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement might could start to show off their pop this year. Also, with the additions of Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez to man left and center next to Ichiro, this could be one of the best outfield defenses in the league.

Texas Rangers, 69-93. #7

Previewed here

NL East

Atlanta Braves, 89-73. #1 super fantastic team

We previewed the Braves here but upon further review, we want to amend it to reflect that Jordan Schafer is apparently leading the race for the center field job and also that we have decided, upon further review, that we like the pitching staff a lot more than we used to. Except for Tom Glavine. And also, the Phillies and Mets have more flaws than we first thought; we'll expound on that in a bit.

Philadelphia Phillies, 88-74. #24

The defending World Champions (we're contractually obliged to say that) have an extremely potent lineup but a barely average pitching staff. Cole Hamels is excellent, but his elbow tenderness makes us concerned for his health, and there's not much behind him. That is, unless you're more confident than we are in heater-hurtlin', wife-punchin' Brett Myers and soft-tossin' Jamie Moyer. Brad Lidge is great at the end of games, even if Charlie Manuel refuses to use him for more than an inning...

Aside: That's our biggest gripe with closers. We're not calling them soft because they don't throw 100 innings like the old relievers would, we're just saying that closers are generally a team's best bullpen arm. So why use them only in the 9th inning? Why not get as many innings as possible out of your team's best gun? If Lidge were to throw 70 or 80 innings, something we believe most any professional pitcher can do, the Phils would be much better off. But hey, if they want to keep him under 50 innings? Fine by us.

...and the rest of the bullpen is pretty good, though no bullpen is a sure thing. As for the hitters, Chase Utley is the best second basegentleman in the game when healthy, which he should be this year, and Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino look great in the spots ahead of him. Raul Ibanez should be his solid self for another year, maybe two, though not all three of his ill-advised deal, and Jayson Werth is an excellent lower lineup bat. We think their overall performance hinges on Ryan Howard; if he can up his contact rate and drive a few more balls to the bleachers, then we're talking about another MVP candidacy. If he continues to decline, as his skill set says will happen more rapidly than most, then they could be in trouble unless other guys step up their game. We're guessing Howard has another great year or two in him, but if he stumbles, this team could easily lose ground to the Mets.

New York Mets, 87-75. #29

After another late-season collapse attributable mostly to the atrocious bullpen, the Mets have retooled, adding two of the best bullpen arms in the game in Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. The rest of the 'pen still looks mediocre, but, again, who can really tell with relievers? The pitching should be a strong point overall, with the Johan heading up a rotation that also features cross-dressin' John Maine, laundry cart-kickin' Oliver Perez, mouthpiece-wearin' Mike Pelfrey, and tater-servin' (allowed an Eric Milton-esque 34 in '07) Livan Hernandez. The lineup is potent as well, featuring some of the best overall players in the game in Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran. Some people will tell you that Carlos Delgado should also be mentioned as a great slugger; these people are wrong. There's a lot of if's involved for the rest of the hitters, though; Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church are no great shakes in the outfield corners, Luis Castillo was a colossal mistake of a signing, and Brian Schneider isn't particularly talented at hitting baseballs. They're not very deep, either; the reserves consist of names like Bobby Kielty, Fernando Tatis (yeah, he had a good year last year, but he's still toast), Angel Pagan (we loved him in Chicago) and Jeremy Reed. So those folks best stay healthy or it'll be a long year in Citi Field.

Florida Marlins, 80-82. #26

We probably like the Marlins' chances more than most. But we're a sucker for young talent, the "Holy Warriors of Potential" as FreeDarko puts it. And the Marlins, as always, are chock-full of it. Our pick for the best player in baseball, Hanley Ramirez, holds down shortstop; Cameron Maybin is a future star in center; Jeremy Hermida, if healthy, could finally put together a big year, and the rotation is loaded with good young talent. Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Andrew Miller and Chris Volstad should be well above average; if they'd held onto Scott Olsen, they'd have one of the best 1-5's in the league. If their thunderous infield (each with 30 HR last year, a first in MLB history) can put up similar numbers despite losing first base banger Mike Jacobs and plugging in Emilio Bonifacio at third, they could be surprise contenders. Of course, catcher John Baker is more or less a black hole at the bat, and their bullpen doesn't have much beyond southpaw Renyel Pinto or the rocket arms of closer Matt Lindstrom and rookie Jose Ceda, but if they can cobble together some effective relief, we'll be scared of these guys.

Washington Nationals, 71-91. #25

The Nationals, too, have some good young talent. No, seriously. Stop laughing. Stop. That's not nice. Adam Dunn, Lastings Milledge, and Elijah Dukes make for a seriously talented outfield that should be able to bash with the best of them, and Willie Harris is an excellent defender who can take some ABs when necessary. In the infield, Ryan Zimmerman mans the hot corner, and he's a more than capable middle-of-the-order bat. Cristian Guzman, whom PECOTA loves this year (to the tune of .323/.361/.454...we're shocked, too) stands to his left, Ronnie Belliard will try not to screw up too badly at the keystone, and Nick Johnson can bash if he stays healthy. Which we all know he can't, but hey, hope springs eternal. Especially in spring. Staff ace Scott Olsen isn't really a number 1 guy, but he should put up good numbers, and if southpaw John Lannan can build on last year's success, it's not a bad 1-2 punch the Nats are putting out there. Of course, beyond that they're relying on Daniel Cabrera to find some semblance of control (he probably can't), failed Giants prospect Shairon Martis (whom we still love for throwing a no-no in the in the inaugural WBC for team Nederland), and a mix of Jordan Zimmerman, Collin Balester, Jason Bergmann, and Garrett Mock, so that doesn't bode well. But hey, Stephen Strasburg should be on the way! And if you haven't heard of that gentleman, you need to read this.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs, 93-71. #2

Previewed here

Milwaukee Brewers, 84-78. #16

The Brewers have a pretty good core group of guys. The offense features 3 potential 20-20 guys in Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Mike Cameron, and they're surrounding two of the NL's best sluggers in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, to say nothing of underrated SS J.J. Hardy. If Bill Hall can fix whatever's been ailing him, he could return to 20-dinger form as well, meaning 1-7 are all legitimate power threats. Of course, Jason Kendall is still hangin' around in that 8 spot; we guess the team's just going to have to count on his defensive skill to salvage what long ago became a below average bat. There's not much bench depth though, unless Mat Gamel is ready to show off what people love so much about him(his bat). He's got the name, but Tony Gwynn, Jr. don't exactly got the game to be someone you want to give more than a hundred ABs. You can say the same thing about the rest of the reserves, too, except for the name part. Pitching-wise, the Brew Crew is, of course, weaker since losing CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, to say nothing of closer Francisco Cordero's unexpected retirement. But they're no longer futzing around with Eric Gagne's battered corpse, so that's gotta count for something. Youngster Yovani Gallardo, he of the nasty stuff and torn ACL is the new ace, and we think he's got the gumption to handle it, to say nothing of the heater. Dave Bush - a stathead's dream and nightmare, since he has great K and BB rates, yet always seems to find a way to suck - and Jeff "Kettle of" Suppan fill in the next two spots; nice to see that Suppan's still living large off that one good posteason run. That contract is bizarre; when it was inked, people hated it, then it looked like a good deal in the next year since pitchers like Carlos Silva were getting paid even more, and now it looks like a terrible deal again. At least it's almost over. ANYWAY, lefty Manny Parra slots in to the back end of the rotation, and if he can overcome last year's stretch run fade and control issues, he could be a big surprise. He's probably the second most talented pitcher on this staff. Then you've got Braden Looper, Chris Capuano, Chase "Four straight ding dongs" Wright and and Seth McClung to choose from for the 5 spot; we'd rather just move on...TO THE BULLPEN, where Hell's Bells Hoffman has come to roost as the new closer. He wasn't so good last year, but PETCO was able to swallow up that skyrocketing flyball rate. Miller Field won't be so kind, and neither will Brewer fans! About the only bright spot in this entire 'pen is 25-year-old Carlos Villanueva, who's got great stuff and has tossed over two centuries' worth of innings in spot relief the last two seasons. If you only needed one inning of baseball to get through a year, that is.

Cincinnati Reds, 80-81. #8

Previewed here

St. Louis Cardinals, 78-84. #22

The Cards have this weird habit of looking totally underwhelming, and then doing crazy things to really shock you. You know, like winning the World Series with David Eckstein at short. This year, the lineup looks a bit more talented from top to bottom, mostly because we now know that Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick actually are talented. Wild, we know. Anyway, Ludwick, Ankiel, Pujols, Glaus - and potentially Chris Duncan and Khalil Greene, if they've recovered from a career-threatening neck injury and career-threatening incompetence, respectively - form a pretty potent core, and they even have the best of the Molina brothers to boot (Yadier)! The pitching's a little dicier, though. Adam Wainwright is the ace, and rightfully so, but beyond him it's a lot of question marks and mediocrity. Chris Carpenter was phenomenal when healthy, but, well, he's not really that anymore. He is coming back from what was an unprecedented run of arm injuries (as long as we exclude Dusty Baker's Midas touch from precedent), but whether he can be any good anymore is up for debate. Settle it for us, Chris! After him, well, Kyle Lohse, Joel Piniero, and Todd Wellemeyer ain't exactly striking fear in the hearts of opposing hitters, but they've been competent enough the last few years. By the way, we think we'll always remember this about Joel Piniero: he once had a streak where (at least) 55 right-handed batters went hitless against him. We found this astonishing. We mean...Joel Piniero! Anyway, as for the relievers, Chris Perez is the heat-heavin', control-not-havin' closer of the future, and we don't think there's a whole lot else to like here. But PECOTA does; even guys like Josh Kinney are forecast at a sub-4.00 ERA. So best of luck to them, we guess, even if we don't like 'em all that much. We're all about the underdog stories! Unless it means they win the division.

Pittsburgh Pirates, 65-97. #16

We're not really sure where to rank the Pirates and Astros, but, well, they're not really any good. So let's just start in Pittsburgh, where it's cause for celebration that they might not finish in last place. There's some mild promise in this lineup, as Nate McLouth can be a 20-20 guy, Ryan Doumit is one of the better hitting catchers in the league, and you could do worse than Adam LaRoche in the middle of your lineup. If Brandon Moss and Andy LaRoche can deliver on some of their promise, and Nyjer Morgan can hit a little bit to augment his speed, there could be something here. Something small, but something. And in Pittsburgh, something is a lot. Ok, we've lost ourselves, too, so let's just get onto the pitching. There was once a lot of promise between Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm, and Zach Duke, but at this point only Snell and Maholm offer any real promise. And Snell was terrible last year. If these guys can fix their myriad issues, then the Pirates could maybe even move into that 70-win plateau. The best thing we can really say about them is that closer Matt Capps is excellent. Unfortunately, there's not going to be a whole lot of leads for him to protect.

Houston Astros, 63-99. #28

In our eyes, the Astros have precisely 5 good players: Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Jose Valverde. Throw 'em in a pot and baby, you got a stew goin'. Or you got a good lineup core, a frontline starter, and a good closer in a pot. Which would be unfortunate. Anyway, beyond that, the Astros got nothin'. Miguel Tejada might have another productive year, and Michael Bourn can steal some bases, but when you're leaning heavily on Kaz Matsui, Geoff Blum, and Ivan Rodriguez, you're not gonna be in great shape. And for that matter, if you have more than one or two of the sort of pitchers that the Astros have, you're gonna be in bad shape. And they have four such hurlers. Should be a fun year, if you like watching teams give up 5 runs a game. Wandy Rodriguez might be good, but he's certainly not a number 2 guy, and the rest...well, take a look: Brian Moehler, Mike Hampton, Jose Capellan, Russ Ortiz, Brandon Backe, Clay Hensley.... alright, we're getting sad. And the relievers are a bunch of castoffs who figure to be whatever the opposite of rock solid is. Water solid?

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers, 89-73. #12

Previewed here

Arizona Diamondbacks, 87-75. #21

The Diamondbacks are also a team that had a lot of promise a few years ago. They had an awe-inspiring collection of prospects, and the kids are now playing full time. They may not be playing up to the 5-star level we might have expected from most, but a core of Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds, and, most importantly, Justin Upton isn't too shabby. Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero are a solid catching duo, Felipe Lopez should be able to steal some bases and hit for average, Chad Tracy should have another year or two left, and Eric Byrnes will be a good bench bat. But the real strength of this team lies in their rotation. Brandon Webb and Dan Haren are, we'd say, two of the five best pitchers in the NL, Max Scherzer has a fantastic arm that'll whiff plenty, and Doug Davis and Jon Garland should be able to eat enough innings to allow the D'Backs to trot out effective pitchers just about every game. There aren't a lot of great arms in the 'pen, but between Chad Qualls, Jon Rauch, Tom Gordon, Tony Pena, and Scott Schoeneweis, we think they can cobble together plenty of effective late-game innings. Problem is, except for the top end of the rotation, the Dodgers just seem to do everything else a little bit better than this group.

San Francisco Giants, 77-85. #9

Previewed here

San Diego Padres, 71-91. #19

What we like: Brian Giles, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jody Gerut, Chase Headley, Jake Peavy, Heath Bell, and Cla Meredith. What we don't: everything else, especially David Eckstein. In the lineup, you can really see the effect Petco Park has on the hitters. Giles is an OBP machine who would be near-star level if he didn't lose out on so many home runs; Adrian Gonzalez is one of the game's best sluggers, but no one knows it because of (say it agan!) Petco! To wit: his average line at home in the last three years has been .269/.345/.442. Solid, nothing to complain about, but it's not gonna get you any awards. On the road, though? A beastly .304/.367/.560. That's All-Star level performance that can get you MVP consideration in a down year. Kouz and Headley are young guys with lots of talent that hopefully doesn't get snuffed out by San Diego's deep dimensions, and Jody Gerut showed up last year after being out of baseball for a year and hit the lights out. In fact, PECOTA likes him to go .302/.365/.500. Quite a shocking resurgence from a guy we hadn't ever expected to hear from again. But, really, unless all of those guys put in huge years, there's no salvaging the rest of the team. As for the pitching, beyond ace Jake Peavy (a KCSD hero), and tall guy Chris Young, there's not much to get excited about. Unless you really, really love (or hate) Mark Prior and want to see him miraculously come back (or get hurt. Again.). Cha Seung Baek could do something with Petco's dampening effect on his high home run rates, but we're not expecting anything from him, because, well, he's Cha Seung Baek. And unless you're a huge Pads fan, it's just about impossible to get excited about Kevin Correia, Walter Silva, Shawn Hill, or any other members of the motley crew toeing the rubber. The bullpen, however, is a slightly different story; Kevin Towers has shown an uncanny ability to build a bullpen on the cheap, and Heath Bell and Cla Meredith are the two prime examples. Both are excellent relievers that should be great in the late innings, and if the rest of the 'pen holds up, well, at least they should hold on to the few late leads they have.

Colorado Rockies, 69-93. #20

This season, like every other season, we love the Rockies' lineup and are turned off by their pitching staff. We think Ryan Spilborghs is a dark horse candidate to go 20-20, Troy Tulowitzki should be ready to reclaim his spot as one of the game's best 6's, Todd Helton still has a great eye at the plate, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe are excellent, and Chris Iannetta should be one of the finest offensive catchers in the majors. If, between former Ole Miss QB Seth Smith and superstar prospects Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies can find a good third and fourth outfielder, their offense will be in great shape. Clint Barmes sort of sucks, though. Hopefully for the Rockies, they can work Ian Stewart's underrated bat into the mix at second base and in the outfield. So how 'bout those pitchers? Well, sinkerballer Aaron Cook is an excellent fit at Coors Field, and he's their ace. Ubaldo Jimenez's electric arm, which had its coming out party in the Rockies' surprising run to the '07 World Series, follows him, and then...well, and then it falls off a cliff. Jorge de la Rosa? Jason Marquis? Josh Fogg? Even Franklin Morales, who, like Jimenez, was excellent in the '07 stretch run, looks terrible at this point. The Rockies will be lucky if the entire back end of the rotation keeps their ERA under 5.50 or so. The saving grace of the pitching staff is the bullpen, but they face the same issue as the rotation: top-heavy in talent, with no depth. Manuel Corpas could be a lights-out closer, and they have Huston Street as insurance - though no one believes he's going to last the season in Colorado, whether because of injury or trade. And Taylor Buchholz is ready behind them; Buchholz really struggled as a starter, but has proven to be a competent reliever. But when you get to the point of entrusting significant innings to castoffs like Jason Grilli, Randy Flores, and Alan Embree, you're in trouble. And, unfortunately, the Rockies are going to get to that point. Trouble, in this case, is fighting for the right to stay out of last place in a weak division. Our only solution is that they lose the purple. Hey, ditching something superfluous worked for the devil Rays.

So there you have it! A guide to the upcoming season that will probably be as wrong as the rest of them, but damned if we're not really excited to find out just how wrong we are. Baseball's a-comin', y'all. Baseball's a-comin'.

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