by Joe Caputo
The MLB season is scheduled to begin Sunday night with the Rangers and Astros, so I guess there’s no better time to write an article with a full preview. You need fantasy advice? Look no further. Looking for award predictions? It’s right here. And World Series picks? Don’t worry, I got you. Here ya go.
I’ll start out with my divisional picks, 1-5, in that order:
- Toronto Blue Jays– the Jays were one of the best offensive teams in baseball last year… and then went out and got Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera. Reyes remains one of the best shortstops in the game, and with the Jays also solidifying the staff, they look like the only reliable lock to be a good team in the AL East this year.
- Tampa Bay Rays– DO I LOVE THIS STAFF OR DO I LOVE THIS STAFF? I love this staff. It’s lead by David Price, but it goes much further than that. Matt Moore and Alex Cobb are two of the best young starters in the game, and, well, does it really matter who Joe Maddon throws in that lineup? I swear I can drive in 75 runs if I played for Joe.
- New York Yankees– there are people out there that would say this is even a bit high for the Bombers. Well I actually have the Yanks in the Playoffs as the second Wild Card team as well. The lineup is just one scary thing to lay your eyes on, but the rotation combined with a solid bullpen will keep them in the race. Watch for David Phelps to come into his own this year, and look out for a HUGE, yes HUGE year from Kevin Youkilis… boy do they need it.
- Boston Red Sox– does anyone even know what the Red Sox have been doing for the past year? Who is even on their team? Well, the rotation isn’t half bad. Major potential from Buccholz and Doubront, and a solid 3 in Dempster. I think the Sawx are gonna surprise a lot of people this year. Put them at .500, but in this divison, all that nets you is a 4th place showing.
- Baltimore Orioles– the odd one out in this division is the O’s. With 4 of the 5 teams in the division being given a shot to win it, there’s gonna be that one team that drastically disappoints. Mine’s the O’s. Jason Hammel is solid, but he’s not an ace. Wei-Yin Chen will struggle in his second season in the MLB, and the rest of the staff will struggle to pick him up. Back to the basement for Baltimore.
- Detroit Tigers– the biggest disparity among a first and second place team in any division… and it’s not even close. This is the best team in baseball… bar none. And guess what, Justin Verlander is not even gonna be the best pitcher on his team this year. Max Scherzer posted an 11.08 K/9 ratio, far and away the best in baseball last year among qualifiers, and he’s only gonna get better. Oh and by the way, maybe one of the best offseason acquisitions this year? How bout getting Victor Martinez back. This team is flat out DEADLY.
- Kansas City Royals– huh? The Royals? What in the world… Bottomline, the rest of this division is awful, and why not take an upstart Royal team to finish second. Hosmer will bounce back, Moustakas is in for a big year, and the acquisition of Shields will at least give them a chance to match-up with other teams’ top starters. It’s a surprise to pick them second, but, when you think about it, its really not.
- Chicago White Sox– really the definition of an average team. A team that really does I guess have a shot to make the playoffs if all goes well, but it probably won’t. The lineup is average, Konerko is getting older, and really their only hope is Chris Sale. The man must be the Cy Young for them to make the playoffs, but even if he were… where are they getting their offense from?
- Cleveland Indians– offense won’t be the problem for Cleveland, but go look back at what I said about the Rays staff… go ahead, I’ll wait… OK. Now. Take the opposite. That’s about how I feel about the Indians staff. End of story.
- Minnesota Twins– do I really have to talk about the Vance Worley-lead Twins rotation?
- Los Angeles Angels– here it goes. I feel my Mike Trout senses tingling. Can’t. Hold. Them. Back. Much. Longer….. I LOVE MIKE TROUT. Hitting in front of Hamilton, Pujols, and Trumbo, he WILL score 140+ runs with ease. Who cares if he gained weight in the offseason? NOT ME. He looks just as fast as he was last year, and please, to all you “Mike Trout will have a sophomore slump people out there,” just please explain. What statistical evidence can you show me that suggests such nonsense?
- Oakland Athletics– yea they A’s are solid. Not much over .500, but I’ll give them a winning record for the second straight year. That staff is just straight-up solid, lead by the likes of Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson. Look for big years from Dan Strailey (11+ K/9 in the minors last year) and AJ Griffin who has absolutely impecable control. Their offense is good enough, and they’ll win games. The real question here is how much longer can they keep this young, stud pitchers? Probably not much longer I’d venture to say.
- Seattle Mariners– let me read your mind: “Where the hell are the Rangers?” Gotchaaaa. The Rangers simply aren’t that good this year, and the Mariners are, I think, better. When you have a King leading your staff, you must be in good shape. And I love the young talent in the lineup in Ackley, Smoak, Saunders, Montero, and my personal favorite, Kyle Seager. The M’s are gonna surprise some people this year.
- Texas Rangers– the Rangers pitchers give up WAY too many fly balls for a staff that pitches half their games in Arlington. Their lineup has gotten worse. Their staff hasn’t gotten better, and they will disappoint in their 2013 campaign.
- Houston Astros– …
- Washington Nationals– #Natitude time. Really only one major loss out of Washington (Michael Morse), and what makes the Nationals better than they were last year is the grandfather clock in my living room, or time to be more specific. Steven Strasburg is a flat out stud, and put him together with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman and you have yourself one scary rotation. Not to mention their lineup isn’t too shabby itself.
- Philadelphia Phillies– best rotation in the NL East. When Roy Halladay is your third starter, that’s sayin’ something. Yes, health will be a major issue, but the offense will be much better than it was last year, and the Phils will be a lot better than most people think this year.
- Atlanta Braves– well, well, well. Where to start? How bout with the rotation. Probably the most unorthodox rotation in baseball in that you can make an argument it should be turned upside down with Juio Teheran on top, and Tim Hudson at the bottom. I’m not too sold on the extremely young Brave rotation, and the loss of Chipper Jones coupled with the inconsistent play of BJ Upton and Dan Uggla will lead to an unpleasant surprise for Atlanta fans out there.
- New York Mets– keep your head up Met fans. There is still a team underneath you. I am actually a FAN, yes a FAN of the Mets’ starting rotation. The lineup on the other hand, thats a different story. Look for big years from Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey, but I’m not too sure where the offense will come from.
- Miami Marlins– oh, they still have a team? I thought I already talked about them in the AL East. Must be a mistake.
- Cincinnati Reds– Joey Votto, Joey Votto, and Joey Votto. We want MORE! We want MORE! We really like it, we want MORE! Give me MORE Joey Votto. See my MVP prediction below for more.
- St. Louis Cardinals– NEVER, and I repeat, NEVER sleep on the Cardinals. EVER! Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, and Yadier Molina still make up a pretty solid core for their lineup, and Adam Wainwright is in my opinion the best pitcher in the division. I just like Joey Votto better than all of them.
- Pittsburgh Pirates– good, young talent, just not enough of it. Andrew McCutchen is still one of the best hitters in baseball, and Jones, Walker, and Alvarez are solid players around him, I just do not trust enough in the rotation. Look for Starling Marte and Jeff Locke to have nice breakout years, but the talent of the Bucs just does not match-up to that of STL and Cincy.
- Milwaukee Brewers– this is a team I’d look out for. I always like the Brewers probably since I’m a huge Ryan Braun guy. Although I don’t believe in their rotation enough to pick them to do well this year, their offense is always exciting and will keep them in games. If you’re looking for a sleeper in the NL Central, look no further.
- Chicago Cubs– Anthony Rizzo is gonna be a 1-man show this year. I’d say Starlin Casto will join him, but I’m just not too sure if he’s gonna even know when the game is in session.
- Los Angeles Dodgers– the highest paid team in baseball. THE HIGHEST PAID TEAM IN BASEBALL PEOPLE. Weren’t they just bankrupt? Guess that didn’t last long. If they DON’T win the West this year, we have a problem. Kershaw, Greinke, Billinsley, and Ryu makes for an excellent rotation, and Kemp and A-Gon in the middle of the lineup makes them such a dangerous team, but who knows what we’ll actually get from them.
- San Francisco Giants– I find it very difficult to pick against this team at this point. Much like the Rays in the American League, they ALWAYS seem to over-achieve. Maddy Bumgarner is a rising star, and if Tim Lincecum can find any part of his old self, the Giants will be there competing in the end. Oh and they got a guy named Buster Posey, he’s pretty good.
- Arizona Diamondbacks– VERY good young talent for this D-Backs squad and I’d put them as one of my other top sleepers in baseball. They need their staff to come through, but Goldschmidt will prove to be a capable middle-of-the-order hitter, and when Adam Eaton returns from injury, this will be a fun team to watch.
- Colorado Rockies– Rocktober used to be one of the most fun shows to watch on TV back in its glory days! Bring back ROCKTOBER!
- San Diego Padres- hmmm…
Wild Card Play-in Game. Rays over Yankees
Divisional Playoffs. Tigers over Rays, Angels over Blue Jays
ALCS. Tigers over Angels
Wild Card Play-in Game. Giants over Phillies
Divisional Playoffs. Nationals over Giants, Dodgers over Reds
NLCS. Nationals over Dodgers
And for your (or my) World Series:
Tigers over Nationals (6 games)
Now for my awards…
AL MVP- Mike Trout. I mean, the guy’s BABIP has never been lower than .340 in the minors OR the majors. It was .358 last year. I guess you can make a case for regression, but it’s not an astronomical difference especially considering his last full season in the minors it was .390. The bottomline is speed never slumps. Nor does a 22.6% line drive rate. Nor does Mike Trout. Everyone will be eating their words at the end of this season when Mike Trout steals 50 bases, hits over 300, and scores 150 runs, and is the American League MVP.
NL MVP- Joey Votto. Ready for these stats? In an injury-shortened season last year, Votto’s on base percentage was .474. Joey Votto walked more time than he struck out. 30% of his batted balls were line drives. Need any more? Joey Votto remembers the 2 times that he’s pulled a ball into the stands in his career. He only popped 1 ball up in the infield last year. Oh he also hit .370 with runners in scoring position. BEAT THAT.
AL Cy Young- Felix Hernandez. I’m not gonna lie, I am a bit concerned about his 22.9% opponent line drive rate from last year, but I assume that was just a fluke considering he never had anything higher than 20% in his career prior. His K/9 is consistently over 8, and what impresses me most about Felix is that he is simply a workhorse. He hasn’t pitched less than 200 innings since 2007… when he pitched 190. Oh and it won’t hurt that he should have a little bit more run support this year than in years past.
NL Cy Young- Steven Strasburg. Believe the hype people. ABSOLUTE STUD. How in the world do you post a 3.16 ERA with a .311 batting average on balls in play against. Are you kidding? That’s unheard of. He’s right up there with the best pitchers in baseball, especially when you consider his 11.13 K/9 ratio. If you haven’t realized, I kinda like strikeouts. We look for pitchers that will one day be able to post a sub-2.00 ERA again. If Strasburg can get that BABIP under .280, and his Home Run/Fly Ball rate down to around 8%, he actually has a legitimate shot to post the first sub-2 ERA since Roger Clemens in 2005.
AL Rookie of the Year- Trevor Bauer (CLE). Talk about strikeouts. He never posted a sub 10 K/9 in all of his years in the minor leagues. EVER. It’s his time to shine in Cleveland, and he has the potential to emerge as an ace for this staff that will struggle otherwise.
NL Rookie of the Year– Adam Eaton (ARZ). This guy is gonna be fun to watch. Doesn’t nearly have the same amount of talent, but he could be this year’s version of Mike Trout. In the minors, Eaton hit .381 in 119 games last year, and also stole 38 bases. He does not have nearly the power that Mike trout has, but he has the mechanics and ability to impact the game on both the offensive and defensive side of the field. He’ll start the season on the DL, but he is going to be a fun player to watch for years to come.
Now, it’s Fantasy Sleeper time. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out your top picks. I’d much rather talk about the sleepers. Help yourself.
Alex Cobb (SP- TB). Going to be a big-time player this year. 11 wins as a rookie last year and will only get better. He has not shown me to this point his ability to translate his minor league strikeout rate onto the major league level, but his low FIP and xFIP numbers (3.67 and 3.54 respectively) suggest that he is doing something right. This year will be a big one for another one of those talented Ray youngsters.
Julio Teheran (SP- ATL). Where did this man come from!? He had an awful year in the minors last year but is only 2 years removed from a 15-win season. He has had an absolutely unbelievable spring and is worth a look in some deeper leagues looking for a low-risk, high-reward type player.
Jeff Samardzija (SP- CHC). Former Notre Dame tight end turned starting pitcher has come a long way for the Cubs and posted a 9.27 K/9 rate last year while walking less than 3 per 9. He’s making strides in the right direction and his low advanced numbers suggest he is primed for a breakout year this year, as long as you’re willing to look past the fact that he won’t rack up too many wins pitching behind that Cubs’ offense.
Matt Harvey (SP- NYM). Harvey was awesome in his 10 starts for New York last year and I expect more of the same from him this year. Posting a 10+ K/9 in your first Major League season is more than impressive, I just need to see his control get a bit more consistent.
Adam Eaton (CF- ARZ). See my NL Rookie of the Year pick above.
Kyle Seager (3B- SEA). Seager has posted a line drive rate above 21% over his first two seasons in the MLB, and he almost doubled his HR/FB rate last year en route to a 20-home run campaign. His declining strikeout rate and improving walk rate suggests he is a maturing young player that is becoming more patient and comfortable at the plate, and he is in line for some big-time production in the middle of that improving Mariners’ lineup this season.
Mike Moustakas (3B- KC). Moustakas’ raising fly-ball rate suggests he is lining himself up to have a monster year in the home run department. Look for this man to have a 30 home run season in his near future, and it could very well be as soon as 2013.
I’ll be back this year to review what’s going on in the baseball world. In the meantime, continue to listen to our podcast, and enjoy the first part of this 2013 MLB season. In the words of former Sunday Night Baseball play-by-play man Jon Miller: ADIOS!