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2011 MLB Team Preview: Cincinnati Reds

After a 14-year postseason drought, the Cincinnati Reds finally made it back to October after winning the NL Central in 2010.

Facing the Phillies in the NLDS proved too much for this young team, as they didn’t win one game but were so content just to be there.

This led to the popular question, were the Reds just lucky last year? Or are they a team for fans to really get excited about in 2011?

Let’s take a look at the Cincinnati Reds:

The Positives:

2011 was predicted as the year the Reds would be competitive in the NL Central, making last year a pleasant surprise. It looks as if virtually the same team is returning from 2010, but should be a little wiser after experiencing the post season.

The batting line-up is young and led by the 27-year-old, reigning NL MVP 1B Joey Votto, who posted a .324 batting average, with 37 home-runs, 113 RBIs and managed to steal 16 bases too.

Votto did get some help from 23-year-old Jay Bruce, 25 year-old Drew Stubbs and veteran Scott Rolan’s hot bats that neighbored him in the line-up. Bruce finished with 70 RBIs, 25 home-runs and posting a .281 batting average, while Stubbs had 22 home-runs, 77 RBIs, with a .255 batting average.

The bats are the Reds muscle but how strong rest on the shoulders of the three youngsters (Bruce, Votto and Stubbs). Bruce and Stubbs could break out in 2011, like Votto did last year at least that is the plan.

Not to leave out the Reds bullpen, which features the highly talked about Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman. Chapman broke the MLB for fastest pitch clocking a 105+ mph fastball in 2010. Chapman could become a dominant closer and will definitely play that roll a few times in the upcoming season. Considering Chapman’s price tag, the Reds will try him out in the rotation but doubt it will be this season. For now he can shorten games and eat some innings for the starters.

The Negatives:

The Reds don’t have a true ace on their pitching staff to go out there every fifth day. The rotation’s success will depend on veteran, 34 year-old Bronson Arroyo and Edison Volquez, who is still recovering from 2009 Tommy John surgery.

Rounding out the bottom includes the undependable Johnny Cueto and an ineffective Homer Bailey.

GO figure that Cueto will start the season on the DL, missing the month of April due to shoulder soreness. That is never a good diagnosis.

Bailey is 24-years old ex-phenom, who has not come close to his lavish days in the minors. Bailey from the past is what everyone is still hoping to see, but his 4.46 ERA, 109 hits over 109 innings has to improve. Bailey did strike out 100 batters, but walking 40 hitters counteracts the one positive.

The team’s hope is that youngsters Travis Wood and Mike Leake continue to improve on 2010 performances. These two had roles in getting to the Reds to the playoffs. Sans Cueto, both Leake and Wood will start the season in the rotation, which gives the two a nice little battle to keep a spot. My guess is Wood will remain in the rotation all season; Leake stays until Cueto gets healthy.

Bottom line is this rotation is not ideal because Arroyo is getting up there. It is doubtful he can win 17 games and throw 200+ innings again in 2011. Volquez was an ace in 2008, but getting back there is tough and only time will tell. Volquez was named the Opening Day starter earlier this week.

Somehow skipper Dusty Baker, who has been known to destroy pitcher’s arms (i.e. destroyer of ‘Chicago Heat’ of Prior and Wood) has to make this work without losing any arms to injury. He did it last season, maybe he learned from past mistakes. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Cincinnati Reds’ »

Breaking Bad News: New York Yankees Sign Kevin Millwood

What the heck is New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman thinking?

Signing Kevin Millwood to any contract is absurd, but according the Sports Illustrated Jon Heyman’s tweet this is happening:

#yankees are close to signing kevin millwood to an incentive-laden minor-league deal

Heyman followed with another tweet that confirms this even more:

millwood would need a few weeks to be ready, so #yankees will begin year with either garcia or colon as no. 5 starter

Does Cashman think that Millwood is going to be better option than Bartolo Colon or Freddie Garcia?

Scott Boras

Image via Wikipedia

I do not think Millwood is the way to go, as I previously wrote New York Yankees Rumor: Please Pass On Kevin Millwood with ample amount of reasons why this would be another pointless signing.

Cashman should be pleased with how things have gone this Spring Training because I certainly was not expecting Colon to pitch so well.

Of course, instead Cashman panics again and makes the Yankees a nursing home for about to be forced into retirement players.

Remember Millwood’s agent is Scott Boras who tends to jam the Yankees with his brainwashing crap or god knows what to get them to constantly pick up his scrappy clients.

Not happy about this one, and I hope to god this is not being done in case Nova struggles a little in April. I would expect Nova to struggle in his first season and learn from the tough situations. Remember, the Yankees need to let these youngsters form in the bigs not jump ship when things get tough.

I do not feel good about this considering the season starts in seven days.


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New York Yankees Rumors: Need A Catcher, Call A Molina

Rumor has it that the New York Yankees are not sold on catching prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine starting out the season up in the Bronx.

Even though Romine and Montero are fighting for the back-up job behind Russell Martin, the fact remains that as of late, the two youngsters have not displayed the confidence needed to handle the pressure of the job.

Montero cannot seem to get in sync, and Romine brings no bat.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman recently gave his thoughts on Montero to John Harper of the New York Daily News:

“He hasn’t played well recently. He’s better than what he’s shown recently, catching-wise. He’s been struggling with the bat, and I don’t know if it’s cause-and-effect. I just know that last year he didn’t start catching well (in Triple-A) until he started hitting. And from June on, both went through the roof.”

This leaves the Yankees with a big decision.

Do they want to send the two down in Triple-A Scranton? Or take risk on one of them?

If Montero and Romine head back to the minors, it won’t be more then a month till Francisco Cervelli foot is healed so a replacement would be needed for the first four or five weeks. The first month of the Yankees schedule is crammed with a nine-day stretch after Opening Day and a 17-games stretch that starts the last week in April, so the back-up catcher will see quite a bit of time.

So, what are the team’s options?

  1. Well, there is always veteran Jorge Posada but the Yankees seem content on Posada being the team’s full time DH. This is understandable as Posada’s bat is his strength, and the Yankees need a stopgap defensive catcher to fill the void.
  2. Looking at the lingering free agents with no home, the oldest of the famous catching Molina brothers, Bengie is rumored to be looking to play still. Bengie is the most decorated of the trio and would be the perfect guy to back-up Martin.
  3. Now if the Yankees decide to fill it with a youngster, Romine is the better catcher of the two for now. He could fill the gap, but overall both him and Montero are so young that letting them develop their talents should be a priority, especially in regards to the younger, more talented Montero.

Everyone had their eyes on Montero, as he ranks one of the top-10 prospects across the minors.  While his bat might be major-league ready, his catching game just isn’t there yet and according to some may never get anywhere. The debate is whether the 21-year old would develop better in Triple-A or given time in the bigs, if at all. Continue reading ‘New York Yankees Rumors: Need A Catcher, Call A Molina’ »

2011 MLB Team Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Over the past four seasons, the Philadelphia Phillies have easily been one of the top three teams across Major League Baseball.

In that time the Phillies have been the NL Champions three times, the 2008 World Series Champs, went back to World Series again in 2009 and made the post season in 2010. Also, the team won 97 games last year, which was the most in baseball.

This ball-club is clearly popular favorite with fans, in Vegas and with players because everyone seems to want to a piece of the Phillies. This off-season proved that after Cliff Lee chose the Phanatic over the Yankee pinstripes.

The pressure is on for this team in 2011, can they live up to the World Series or bust position they’ve put themselves in?

Let’s take a look at the Philadelphia Phillies heading into the season.

The Positives:

Pitching. There is no better rotation heading into 2011 across baseball.

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels (and Joe Blanton) almost seems surreal, but then you realize this is reality in Philadelphia and that is nuts. Each of the names already so respected in the league by itself, that it would be no surprise if they went down historically as the best starting rotation ever. Just think about the fact that Blanton is the team’s fifth starter and anywhere else he would easily be a #2 or #3 guy.

SS Jimmy Rollins talents shine when the spotlight is on him and this season it is glaring in his face, as Rollins is in a contract year. Last year was an utter disappointment, as he played in just 88 games, posting just eight home-runs, 41 RBIs and a career low .243 batting average. Rollins showed up this Spring in incredible shape and is healthy as can be, so expect those numbers to shoot up big time because he knows that at 32-years-old, this will be his last big contract.

If the team ever needs a pick-me-up, the Phillies fans will surely give them that extra motivation. Citizens Bank Park will be packed without question for every home game, as the fans are nuts for this team.

It doesn’t hurt that the Phillies are managed by one of the best skippers in the game Charlie Manual. Manual is one cool customer and the players literally worship him.

The Negatives:

All-star 2B Chase Utley’s injury situation keeps looking more grim with each passing day. The latest confirmed by MLB Trade Rumors is the worst news yet, as the Phillies have signed Mets throwaway Luis Castillo. Castillo got kicked to the curb by NY’s other team a week ago, despite having to eat $6 million owed just to get him to leave.

This is the Mets, who financially are in serious hot water, presumably wouldn’t waste money unless the situation was dire. Same reason the Phillies went out and grabbed Castillo, desperation because Utley knee must be really bad. It is embarrassing for the Phillies, as Utley must have felt his knee had a problem during the off-season. Utley has yet to play in a game this spring. YIKES!

It would be impossible for the ‘fab four’ to throw for nine innings every start, but my bet is they will try. Handing the ball to Brad Lidge after working eight shutout innings does not reassure a win at all. Lidge hasn’t been the same since 2008 and a closer has to be consistent. Lidge has been flirting with biceps tendonitis this spring but he did pitch an inning in a minor league game and it went well. Lidge has to get back to his World Series Championship form so the starting rotations efforts aren’t a total waste.

I have said from the moment Jayson Werth was not re-signed that the team would seriously regret it. This I still firmly believe as Werth was their only power right hitter. Werth really carried the team in 2010 when Utley, Rollins and Ryan Howard were all on the DL.

Werth still preformed pretty much knowing he was a goner at the end of the season.

How did he know this? Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Philadelphia Phillies’ »

2011 Spring Training Update: The New York Yankee Wounded

Leaving Spring Training a team can look very different from when they got there.

The leading cause is injuries, as players are warming-up their bodies to get ready for the 162-game grind of the regular season. To see the most up-to-date injury report, team-by-team go to ESPN Injury Updates.

Daily reports seem endless, but also remember that if a player feels anything is off, he will rest as a precautionary measure.

Other then catcher Francisco Cervelli broken foot, the New York Yankees have been pretty healthy considering the clubhouse has been dubbed a part-time nursing home.

The pitchers have had their usual stiffness, as at one point the majority of the Yankee bullpen was in the training room instead of on the mound.

Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger gave the latest updates:

  • Both Joba Chamberlain (groin) and Pedro Feliciano (triceps tightness/dead arm) are both throwing off the mound without any problems.
  • Eric Chavez, who should easily make the 25-man roaster, is having calf spasms but is sidelined till Friday as a precautionary measure and he says it is not anything of concern.
  • Brett Gardner’s bruised shin is fine and he is back in the line-up as the Yankees lead-off hitter.

The New York Times reported on the latest blow:

  • Curtis Granderson did not play against the Orioles today after straining his right oblique muscle in batting practice. Still waiting on the severity of the injury, but his Opening Day status is possibly in doubt.

That is not good news, but guess skipper Joe Girardi will keep us updated on Granderson’s condition. He was having a really productive Spring and hope he will be in Center Field on Opening Day.

Opening Day is just 10 days away and everyone is ready to get the regular season going….

2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers

The 2010 season did not pan out the way the Detroit Tigers had planed and that is putting it kindly.

Injury-ridden across the board, it is a miracle within itself that the Tigers managed to finish with an 81-81 record. The Tigers are not a .500 team and going forward

Is 2011 the year of the Tigers? Hey anything it possible, so let’s take a look at Detroit heading into the regular season.

The Positives:

The Tigers off-season easily ranks as one of the most productive in baseball, with the additions of catcher Victor Martinez, RHP Joaquin Benoit and RHP Brad Penny.

The big splash was signing Martinez to a 4-year deal worth $50 million. Martinez is one of the best hitting catchers in the game and in my guess is he will hit fifth, right behind arguably the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera. This is a huge upgrade behind the plate, as Martinez is that good.

The Tigers are looking forward to the return of OF Magglio Ordonez, after he broke his ankle in 2010. Ordonez is the top half of the Cabrera sandwich hitting in the third spot. Ordonez is 37 years old and entering his 15th season, but his first 14 years makes an average season of 38 doubles, 27 home-runs and 111 RBIs. If Ordonez can get anywhere near those numbers, watch out.

Rookie OF Austin Jackson came to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson trade with the Yankees right at the start of 2010 season. Jackson finished second in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting and had a great first season. As the Tigers lead-off expect big things from Jackson, who hit in over a 100 runs, stole 27 bases and finished up with a batting average just shy of .300. Jackson needs to cut down on his 170 strikeouts from 2010, but that will come with time.

Detroit’s infield also has 3B Brandon Inge who is like a fine wine, he keeps getting better over time. Next to Inge at shortstop is Johnny Peralta who is all around solid both offensively and with the bat.

This is a really good group of bats that will compliment the Tigers’ equally talented pitching rotation.

Led by team ace Justin Verlander, who is the definition of an innings eater pitching just shy of 230 total last season. Verlander posted a 3.37 ERA, with 219 strikeouts and an 18-9 record. Max Scherzer, who pitched 195 innings total, with a 3.50 ERA, follows Verlander in the two spot. Rounding out the rotation is Rick Porcell, Phil Coke and Brad Penny. This will be Coke’s first season in the bigs as a starter and his performance could impact the team big time.

Closer Jose Valverde is healthy again and with the Tigers new addition of Benoit to be his 8th inning guy sets Valverde up to get a lot of save opportunities.

The Tigers look good all around and are determined that this is their year.

The Negatives:

The off-field behavior of Cabrera is a great concern, as it should be. Cabrera has had problems with alcohol for quite some time, but after the trouble he caused at the end of 2009 things seemed to be on track. So, at the start of Spring Training it came as quite a shock to hear the Cabrera had been arrested for a DWI again and resisting arrest. The Tigers had no problem letting Cabrera come into camp, which I hope was not for selfish reasons. Cabrera is obviously not well and without professional help, like going to a rehab, it is almost certain he will find trouble again soon.

With the team looking healthy again, the Tigers have to improve their record on the road. Last season going 29-52 is disgraceful, after going the reverse 52-29 at home. If they want to contend they have to win more away from Detroit or they can forget the playoffs. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers’ »