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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 347

post #10381 of 73439
Thread Starter 
The Astros just moved the AL, they're going to showcase them only once this season. Stop complaining.
post #10382 of 73439
Love the atmosphere in the park pimp.gif
post #10383 of 73439
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Love the atmosphere in the park pimp.gif

Soak it up, it'll be empty more often than not mean.gif
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
Houston Rockets | Houston Texans | Houston Astros | Texas Aggies
post #10384 of 73439

This guy couldn't decide who to root for laugh.gif
post #10385 of 73439
^ brings me back to my middle school days. Cats were doing that with Jordan jerseys and football jerseys mad.gifsick.gif
post #10386 of 73439
Originally Posted by Ballerific703 View Post

^ brings me back to my middle school days. Cats were doing that with Jordan jerseys and football jerseys mad.gifsick.gif

I remember the Wizards/Bulls Jordan Jerseys sick.gif
post #10387 of 73439
Rangers pitching sick.gif
post #10388 of 73439
Originally Posted by Kevin Cleveland View Post

Astros by 12.
post #10389 of 73439
Originally Posted by mfreshm View Post

I have a question If i order it says they don't have home and away feeds so how is it decided which broadcast is shown?

I ordered Premium last year and had the option of watching/listening to Braves broadcast. is cheaper by only 20 bucks so is it worth it to fork up to premium? or regular

Get premium so you can watch it on your phone or tablet...vid game system too..and it has DVR capabilities and you can choose home or away feed

I hope reds game aren't blacked out...doesn't make sense since I'm in one time I could watch them on tv but they stopped that
post #10390 of 73439
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post


Opening Day Lineup:

1. Denard Span CF
2. Jayson Werth RF
3. Bryce Harper LF
4. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
5. Adam LaRoche 1B
6. Ian Desmond SS
7. Danny Espinosa 2B
8. Wilson Ramos C
9. Stephen Strasburg P

I got werth and span on a fantasy team. You think they'll be raking up the runs? Werth rebounding to have a good year?
post #10391 of 73439
Rangers close to an 8 year, $120 million deal with Andrus.
post #10392 of 73439
Originally Posted by LoveHateSelf View Post

I got werth and span on a fantasy team. You think they'll be raking up the runs? Werth rebounding to have a good year?
If Span continues to play like he did in Minnesota and get on base and if Werth plays like he did at the end of last year, absolutely. With Harper/Zimm/LaRoche behind them all they have to do is get on base. And Werth can drive Span in on occasion if his wrist is fully healthy, because that means that he's regained his power.
post #10393 of 73439
Happy Opening Day folks. Best of luck to your team unless they play in the AL East.
post #10394 of 73439
With all this rain pouring into Oakland, it's looking like my Opening Day will be postponed.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #10395 of 73439
Damn wanted to see Hernandez shut y'all out...angels/reds should be a good one
post #10396 of 73439
Feels good for a day laugh.gif
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
post #10397 of 73439
Thread Starter 
10 bold predictions for 2013 season.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With Friday’s news of right-hander Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers agreeing to a record-setting contract, the drama of whether baseball’s best pitcher would see free agency in two years came to an end.

Some could say it was predictable in a sense. After all, the Tigers would look extremely foolhardy to allow Verlander to walk via free agency after his current contract expires after 2014. Saying Verlander was going to sign an extension at some point isn’t going out very far on that proverbial limb. It’s just not a bold prediction.

So, what craziness could happen in 2013? With Opening Day just around the corner, here are my 10 bold predictions for the 2013 baseball season:

1. New York Yankees finish last in AL East.

It hasn’t happened in 22 years, since the Yankees finished 67-95 and seven games in back of the Milwaukee Brewers, but the Yankees could very easily go from first in 2012 to worst in 2013. And, with the American League’s largest payroll, there is additional pressure to win in addition to their own high standards of success.

However, New York bids adieu to Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin, who all left via free agency, and in their stead added a geriatric brigade of Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner, giving the Yankees the oldest 40-man roster in baseball. Lastly, they enter the season facing extended stays on the disabled list for Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter.

Make no mistake, all five teams in the AL East have a chance to finish anywhere from first to last place. It is the only division in baseball to boast such parity. But given the injuries, age and lack of talent at the upper levels of their farm system, as well as a roster filled with no-trade clauses for the first time since 1995, the Yankees could lose more games than they win.

2. Julio Teheran wins more games than Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and Ricky Romero.

Since 2009, Teheran has been one of the top pitching prospects of the Atlanta Braves. He was rushed through the Braves' farm system, reaching the major leagues by age 20. However, in winter ball this year, he really took off -- his pitches were working with much better command in the strike zone. He continued to impress scouts in spring training, going 3-1 with a 1.04 ERA and giving up just seven hits in 26 innings with 35 strikeouts. This could be the year that he breaks out for Atlanta. Meanwhile, Halladay looks hurt, Lincecum can’t find his fastball command and Romero was optioned to Class A.

3. Tigers trade for Huston Street or Steve Cishek.

The Tigers were convinced that rookie Bruce Rondon and his 100 mph fastball were ready for the big leagues. They miscalculated, and Rondon was optioned to the minors. Detroit now will have to close by committee with Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel. All three are quality relievers and can get the job done short term but are better as setup men.

A potential 100-win club becomes a 90- to 92-win team without a closer. And as a team with aspirations of returning to the World Series, the Tigers need a designated closer, such as Street or Cishek. The Tigers have enough in the farm system to make a deal at the trade deadline.

4. Asdrubal Cabrera is traded to the St. Louis Cardinals or Tigers at the trade deadline.

One of the best shortstop prospects I saw all spring was Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians. With range and speed to both sides, a strong arm and a terrific swing, he reminded me of a young Barry Larkin. It’s only a matter of time before he’s ready. So while the Indians continue to rebuild, their best time to trade Cabrera is now, before he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season.

The Cardinals and Tigers would be the best trade fits for the Indians. St. Louis might offer one of its top young arms, such as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez or Joe Kelly in the right deal. Detroit could package Rondon and Drew Smyly, especially if it gets Chris Perez back in the deal to solve its closer problem.

5. Yasiel Puig comes up as an injury replacement, and “Yasielmania” ensues.

Puig was the most dynamic player I saw all spring and reminded me of a cross between Bo Jackson and Yoenis Cespedes. I wrote about his tremendous abilities in my blog last week. A Matt Kemp/Puig combination has a chance to be the best power/speed tandem in the game. Puig’s at-bats will be must-see events, and he will electrify Dodger Stadium, bringing back the memories of “Fernandomania,” when Fernando Valenzuela routinely sold out Chavez Ravine during his starts.

6. Mark Trumbo hits more home runs than Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

The fact is that Trumbo has more raw power than any one of Hamilton, Pujols and Trout. But starting pitchers will be so careful trying not to make a mistake to the aforementioned trio that Trumbo probably will see some mistake fastballs. How the home run derby could shake out: Trumbo 42 home runs, Hamilton 37, Pujols 35 and Trout 33.

7. The Pittsburgh Pirates have first winning season in two decades.

The last time the Pirates had a winning record was 1992, when they went 96-66 and finished in first place. Young stars Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, James McDonald and Starling Marte can end the drought. And after two years of playing winning baseball in the first half of the season, they should finally also succeed in the second half this season when their top two pitching prospects, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, are ready to contribute at the major level. When they arrive in Pittsburgh, a strong second half will lead to an 82-80 fourth-place finish.

8. Brendan Ryan hits .200 and wins Gold Glove

Ryan was one of the best defensive shortstops in the AL last year but lost the Gold Glove to the Baltimore Orioles’ J.J. Hardy. Offense is not supposed to play in the voting, but Ryan’s .194 average must have made a difference in the mind of voters. If so, then perhaps if he hits .200 this season, he'll win his first Gold Glove Award.

9. Michael Young starts a playoff game, but not for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Young led the AL in hits in 2011 before slumping last year. After his trade to the Phillies this offseason, his bat should bounce back. His defense at third base should be adequate, but his range has deteriorated to the point that his best role is probably as a DH. I could see a team such as the Orioles or Tampa Bay Rays acquiring Young at the trade deadline, and he will somehow end up starting a playoff game.

10. Cliff Lee is traded to the Los Angeles Angels or back to Texas Rangers at the July 31 trade deadline.

The Phillies are certainly capable of winning 85 games, but GM Ruben Amaro will have to assess at the All-Star break whether the team is good enough to win the World Series. Philadelphia faces many questions regarding aging stars, injured veterans and untested rookies. If the team gets off to a bad start, Lee undoubtedly will be moved at the trade deadline, hastening the Phillies’ rebuilding project.

Picking division and award winners.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As usual, I've sketched out my win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. I've tried to include at least one thought on each team that explains my predictions, as well as notes on some key players or possible impact call-ups. Awards predictions follow the division picks.

Behind The Dish with Keith Law
Keith Law talks to SweetSpot Blogger Dave Schoenfield about Kyle Lohse's contract and desperate times for the Yankees. Plus,'s Andrew Baggarly on Tim Lincecum.

More Podcasts »
AL East

The Toronto Blue Jays made headlines this winter, mostly for the right reasons, but their lack of depth behind the shiny front line of recognizable stars has already been slightly exposed with the demotion of Ricky Romero. As good as they could be, the Jays slide in behind the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays have a history of exceeding expectations, perhaps due to their lack of name value, and they have reinforcements sitting in Triple-A ready to help by June or so, including top prospect Wil Myers.

The Boston Red Sox's offseason scored low marks from me -- the Shane Victorino contract was the worst of the winter -- yet it's still a solid team and a much better one than last year, especially if the improved looks from Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester hold true into the season.

AL East prediction

Tampa Bay 93 69
Toronto 90 72
Boston 86 76
N.Y. Yankees 82 80
Baltimore 79 83
The New York Yankees' run of injuries -- funny what happens when your team's core gets old -- could drop them to last place or sub-.500 territory, although the team they'll run out there in April should keep them afloat until Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson come back.

The Baltimore Orioles' 2012 season was a great story but was built on an unsustainable foundation of luck and bullpen performance. They did nothing to upgrade the team this winter and may be overreliant on players who are likely to deliver less value this year. Their best hopes for a step forward are Chris Tillman, whose stuff was better in the second half, and Matt Wieters, who is about two years late on that big offensive breakout I had predicted for him.

AL Central

The Tigers should run away with this division, but they should have done so last year and won it by just three games, falling seven wins short of the 95 I predicted. This year's club is a little stronger on paper, thanks to Anibal Sanchez, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, with ninth-inning relief duties the only question mark -- and a wildly overblown one at that.

AL Central prediction

Detroit 96 66
Kansas City 82 80
Cleveland 78 84
Chicago WS 76 86
Minnesota 65 97
The Royals' pitching staff overhaul isn't likely to push them to the playoffs, but that plus a bounce back from Eric Hosmer could give them their second winning season in the last 20.

Cleveland overhauled its lineup, and its outfield defense could be a beautiful thing to watch. But the rotation is a major weakness, and the team doesn't have the in-house depth to help if one or more of its established starters goes down.

The White Sox are also looking at a lack of depth, with John Danks a disaster this spring and probable regression coming from Paul Konerko, Alexis Rios and Adam Dunn.

The Twins are in full rebuild mode as they wait for the arms in the farm system to start boosting the major league rotation, with Kyle Gibson likely the first arrival by the middle of this year. Watch out for former first-rounder Aaron Hicks in center field, a plus defender with a tremendous arm, above-average speed and the chance for power down the road but who has jumped to the majors straight from Double-A.

AL West

The Los Angeles Angels' pitching staff scares me, and I admit I'm out on a limb projecting them for 94 wins, but I do think their offense and defense are both among the top crews in the league. If nothing else, they've assembled a rotation that fits well in their ballpark, along with the gloves they'll run out there most nights in the outfield. Even Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton could post superficially better performances thanks to Anaheim's spacious park.

AL West prediction

L.A. Angels 94 68
Texas 88 74
Oakland 82 80
Seattle 76 86
Houston 56 106
The Texas Rangers are taking a ton of heat for not doing anything this offseason, but shouldn't we at least praise them for not doing anything stupid? Zack Greinke was the one ideal fit, and they lost out on him to the Infinite Payroll. Eventually, they'll kick Ian Kinsler to first base, install Jurickson Profar at second and be at least the second-best team in the division.

I love what the Oakland Athletics did this winter, but I can't project their pitching staff to be that effective a second time around, even if the run-scoring side improves.

The Seattle Mariners will hit more homers this year, but their defense will take a hit with Michael Morse and perhaps Raul Ibanez or Jason Bay in the outfield, although the midyear arrival of Mike Zunino to catch could help.

The Houston Astros won't be as embarrassingly awful as they were last year, thanks to an improved, major league-ish rotation. But this division is brutal. They could field a better team than 2012 and still lose more games.

Wild card: Toronto over Texas

ALDS: Detroit over Toronto, Tampa Bay over L.A. Angels

ALCS: Tampa Bay over Detroit

NL East

The Washington Nationals are the best team in baseball, at least on paper, with a deep rotation, a hilariously deep bullpen and a strong offense that features a rising superstar in Bryce Harper, who looks primed for an even better sophomore campaign than his rookie year.

NL East prediction

Washington 96 66
Atlanta 92 70
Philadelphia 79 83
N.Y. Mets 65 97
Miami 60 102
Atlanta's aggressive offseason brought in a potential MVP candidate in Justin Upton, finally healthy after an April hand injury ruined his 2012 season, although holes at third, maybe second and catcher until Brian McCann returns are all flaws that put it behind Washington.

The Philadelphia Phillies look old and slow, with the struggles of Roy Halladay, who's missing his fastball, blowing a major hole in what should have been the team's primary strength.

The New York Mets may field the worst outfield in recent history, although they could have a pretty good rotation once Zack Wheeler arrives in June or so.

The Miami Marlins are a joke, more off the field than on it, but are fielding something akin to a Triple-A club around Giancarlo Stanton, including a very shaky rotation.

NL Central

If the Nationals aren't the best team on paper, I'd like to nominate the Cincinnati Reds, even though they're trying to dance in the outfield with three left feet. The lineup is mostly deep -- made worse by Dusty Baker's insistence on batting Zack Cozart second -- and the rotation and bullpen are among the best in the league.

NL Central prediction

Cincinnati 95 67
St. Louis 90 72
Milwaukee 82 80
Chicago Cubs 77 85
Pittsburgh 75 87
The St. Louis Cardinals aren't far behind, short in the middle infield but deep in the outfield, rotation and bullpen, where potential replacement starters Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly will start the season.

I would have had the Brewers sub-.500 before they signed Kyle Lohse, and I still think they have a higher collapse potential than any of the other teams I've projected to have winning records, with a strong lineup but big questions in the bullpen and no great options if they have to replace a starter.

The Chicago Cubs are an unbalanced team, but I'm cautiously optimistic about their rotation. They could deal Matt Garza or Alfonso Soriano midyear, making the team worse than this projection would indicate.

The Pittsburgh Pirates look like a mediocre offense with a weak pitching staff, desperate for a big breakout from Starling Marte or Travis Snider or a huge impact from Gerrit Cole midyear, none of which seems that likely.

NL West

The San Francisco Giants brought the same crew back for 2013, usually not an ideal strategy but likely to prevent enough runs to at least win one of the wild-card spots with just an average offense. Tim Lincecum could be the difference between a division title and a spot in the play-in game. (In case you missed it, I discussed Lincecum's outlook on this week's podcast with Giants beat writer Andy Baggarly.)

NL West prediction

San Francisco 92 70
L.A. Dodgers 89 73
Arizona 84 78
San Diego 78 84
Colorado 53 109
The Los Angeles Dodgers have pitching depth, with seven viable starters if you believe Chad Billingsley can avoid Tommy John surgery (I don't), and when their lineup is healthy, it's one of the better ones in the league. However, Hanley Ramirez was probably the position player they could least afford to lose other than Matt Kemp.

The Arizona Diamondbacks will grit and scrap their way to the most hard-nosed third-place finish ever, but their run-scoring (especially the outfield) and run-prevention sides look short relative to the Dodgers and Giants.

The San Diego Padres might be sneaky good this year, but losing a month of Chase Headley, and possibly losing his power potential for longer than that, hurts their offense. The rotation has a lot of fourth-starter types with nobody likely to be above league-average.

The Colorado Rockies are a mess, with awful starting pitching foiling an interesting plan to use those guys, a staff built around pitch-to-contact guys in a ballpark where that is the last kind of pitcher you want.

Wild card: Atlanta over St. Louis

NLDS: Washington over Atlanta, Cincinnati over San Francisco

NLCS: Washington over Cincinnati

World Series: Tampa Bay over Washington

Player awards

AL MVP: Mike Trout

I mean, he did deserve the award last year, and it would be less than shocking to see him win it a year later even if he doesn't have as great of a year, especially since the specific group of voters changes each year.

NL MVP: Jason Heyward

I would love to say Andrew McCutchen, but the voters are still resistant to the fact that the MVP can be on a bad team.

AL Cy Young: Josh Johnson

Going out on a limb, but he's apparently healthy, in a walk year and playing in front of a good defense. Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in the AL in each of the last two years and is probably a safer bet.

NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg

This assumes the Nats don't shut him down on Labor Day because he has "a code in his dose." Clayton Kershaw was deserving in 2012 and has to be among the favorites again.

AL Rookie of the Year: Brandon Maurer

If all the major candidates for this had full-time jobs on Opening Day, I'd take Wil Myers, who is both major league ready and likely to rack up impressive counting stats if given the playing time. He, Jurickson Profar and Dylan Bundy will all start the year in the minors, so Maurer, Aaron Hicks and Jackie Bradley Jr. are the top candidates for now. Maurer has an out pitch (the slider) to miss plenty of bats, and his home park should keep his superficial numbers strong.

I love Hicks as a prospect but am concerned about his history of slow adjustments after promotions, with this year's promotion a two-level jump. Bradley is talented but has just 61 games above A-ball. Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin has a job but lost his rookie eligibility last year.

NL Rookie of the Year: Jedd Gyorko

Gyorko has a solid grip on a job and gets to start the year at his better position, third base, although I expect he'll move to second once Chase Headley returns. I would have gone with Adam Eaton, but he's injured and will lose maybe 100 or so at-bats. Shelby Miller, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Teheran are strong candidates, and if Billy Hamilton comes up in the first third of the season, he could post a huge stolen base total that wins him the award.

Execs pick their top 10 players for 2013.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The American League Most Valuable Player debate last summer illuminated the significant difference between the way folks in front offices evaluate players and how uniformed personnel view them. For managers, coaches and players, Miguel Cabrera was a no-brainer selection as he became the first hitter in 45 years to win the Triple Crown.

But for many general managers, assistant general managers and scouts -- baseball's talent evaluators -- the whole question seemed ridiculously simple, summed up neatly by the offensive and defensive metrics of Mike Trout.

ESPN Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney
Buster Olney talks about the top 10 players in baseball as voted on by GM's and scouts and previews the NL Central with Tim Kurkjian, Derrick Goold and Jesse Rogers.

More Podcasts »
"Taking a home run away with your glove means the same thing as hitting a home run," one GM said with incredulity.

It was a debate that execs believed wasn't really debatable.

So the results of a poll of 21 talent evaluators shouldn't be a surprise. In conjunction with the "Baseball Tonight" 500 -- the top 10 of which will be unveiled at 10 tonight on ESPN -- I asked those 21 execs to rank the top 10 players in the majors for 2013, 1 through 10, and the votes reflected the way they feel about overall value. The middle-of-the-diamond guys, including pitchers, fared very well.

In tabulating the votes, I gave the players points according to where they were placed on ballots -- 10 for first place, 9 for second place, etc.) .

1. Mike Trout | OF, Los Angeles Angels
177 (out of 210 possible) points; 13 first-place votes

"Best player in the game, period," said one front office type. "Special, a freak talent."

2. Buster Posey | C, San Francisco Giants
164 points; 5 first-place votes

"Elite hitter at a premium position who has led his team to two World Series titles."

3. Justin Verlander | RHP, Detroit Tigers
132 points

"Most dominant pitcher in the game."

4. Miguel Cabrera | 3B, Detroit Tigers
130 points; 2 first-place votes

"Probably the best pure hitter in the game."

5. Clayton Kershaw | LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
93 points

"Injuries from last year hurt his ranking a little, but he's one of the best."

6. David Price | LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
68 points

"For me, he's right there with Verlander -- and he's younger, and left-handed."

7. Joey Votto | 1B, Cincinnati Reds
65 points; 1 first-place vote

"I think he's headed for a big year at the plate, and he's a good defender."

8. Robinson Cano | 2B, New York Yankees
63 points

"He's got the best swing in baseball."

9. Ryan Braun | LF, Milwaukee Brewers
62½ points

"There are questions about the stuff in Miami, but he performs at an extremely high level every year."

10. Andrew McCutchen | CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
56 points

"He may be the most complete player, and does it on bad team."

Other players who got votes: Giancarlo Stanton finished 11th, with 27 points; Matt Kemp 26; Evan Longoria 25; Felix Hernandez 19; Joe Mauer 11; Stephen Strasburg 11; Adrian Beltre 6½ Bryce Harper 4; Troy Tulowitzki 4; Chase Headley 1.

Bradley's scouting report

A talent evaluator had this scouting report after watching Jackie Bradley Jr. play as an amateur at the University of South Carolina.

"Player carries the 'it' factor. Presidential presence to game. Regal. However, the player has been the most popular man in Columbia, S.C. from the 1st day he walked on campus and he had me glued to the TV last year watching the College World Series. Mesmerizing defender. Jaw-dropping defensive skills. Patrols CF with a determined grace, with flare. Would have happily paid good money just to watch his pregame batting practice and infield. Acrobatic and skilled. Catches every ball with flare. Covers ground like a gladiator. Plus handles the glove in CF like Omar Vizquel would in the infield. Amazing defensive skills. Innate ability to hawk the diamond. Better defender in center field than majority of major leaguers right now& [You] can't teach the things this kid can do defensively. Made the parallel play coming directly in on a ball ala 1998 Andruw Jones. Sick defender."

If the Red Sox open the season with Bradley, Jr. in the big leagues -- two years after that scouting report was placed -- his defense will be one of the biggest reasons.

Bradley has proven he belongs. Is he one of the best players in Boston's camp? Absolutely.

From a business standpoint, would it make sense to wait until April 12 to promote him and gain an extra year of team control? Absolutely.

Around the league

• Maybe the most notable maneuvering this week has been the Angels' scramble to add pitching. Their bullpen has been something of a puzzle this spring, so GM Jerry Dipoto got a reliever in a deal with the Rays, signed Mark Lowe and traded for Elvin Ramirez from the Mets.

• On Wednesday's podcast, one of the things Jerry Crasnick and I chatted about, in discussing Royals catcher Salvy Perez, was a catcher I covered who had an OCD issue that drove pitchers crazy.

• Evan Gattis made the Braves' roster, the culmination of an incredible comeback story.

• This is a good sign for the Giants: Pablo Sandoval was able to go through a workout.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Derrick Goold wrote Wednesday morning that the Cardinals were on the verge of a deal with Adam Wainwright, and by last night, the agreement was in place, for $97.5 million.

2. The Tigers will huddle to discuss the fate of Bruce Rondon.

3. Each time a contract is signed, the deals are assigned average annual values separately by Major League Baseball, and the union assessed Kyle Lohse's deal at about $10.7 million annually. Lohse's deal was first reported at $33 million over three years, and it includes $7 million in deferred money, which is the reason for the difference.

4. Vance Worley will be the plow horse for the Twins, they hope, and he's getting the ball on Opening Day.

5. The Twins' projected payroll is at $81 million, writes Mike Berardino.

6. Gorkys Hernandez was pulled from a game Wednesday, and it could be that the Marlins are preparing a trade, as Joe Capozzi writes. Total speculation: Arizona has had its outfield depth tested this spring by injuries to Adam Eaton and Jason Kubel.

7. J.A. Happ got a contract extension, to go along with the No. 5 spot in the Toronto rotation.

8. Clayton Kershaw doesn't want to talk about his extension talks.

9. The Padres' Opening Day roster is all but set, writes Bill Center.

10. Jon Lester is getting the ball on Opening Day, as Dan Shaughnessy writes.

11. Jason Hammel is getting the ball on Opening Day for the Orioles.

Dings and dents

1. The Braves are waiting on the news about Jonny Venters. No matter what the doctors say, his status as an elite setup man will be in doubt as the season opens.

2. Willie Bloomquist will open the year on the disabled list.

3. Jair Jurrjens was nailed by a comebacker.

4. Phil Hughes will open the year on the disabled list.

5. Derek Jeter won't play in a minor league game until next week, at the earliest.

The fight for jobs

1. After all the work Matt Carpenter put in at second base this spring, he'll open the year at third.

2. Devin Mesoraco found the competition to be a good thing.

3. Nick Tepesch will be the Rangers' No. 5 starter.

4. Jeff Niemann, vying for the No. 5 spot in the Tampa Bay rotation, had a really good outing.

5. Brandon Maurer and Blake Beavan will be the No. 4 and No. 5 starters in the Seattle rotation, writes Geoff Baker.

6. Daniel Bard had a really tough day.

7. Some bullpen intrigue remains for the Nationals, writes Amanda Comak.

8. The Phillies have to pick a backup catcher.

9. Jeff Locke will open the season as the No. 5 starter for the Pirates.

Wednesday's games

1. Daisuke Matsuzaka had good results.

2. Bob Melvin yanked a lot of his starters from Oakland's last exhibition in Arizona.

3. Jon Niese finished spring training strong.

NL West

• The Rockies' roster is taking shape.

• Mark Kiszla doesn't want the Rockies to jinx Jhoulys Chacin with an Opening Day start.

• Ted Lilly is unsure about starting the season on the disabled list.

• For the Dodgers, questions remain, as Bill Plunkett writes.

• The Padres know all about the fragility of pitching, writes Tyler Kepner.

NL Central

• The Cubs are brimming with optimism as they break camp.

• Kyle Lohse is eager to take his turn in the Milwaukee rotation.

• A.J. Burnett is thinking about retiring after the season.

NL East

• Chris Coghlan has had a strong spring, writes Joe Capozzi.

• The Mets have faith in Bobby Parnell, writes Mike Puma.

• Shaun Marcum says he'll find a way to pitch.

• Wilson Ramos is all the way back.

• As Roy Halladay gets the ball today, questions about him persist.

• The Phillies hope that Michael Young is an influence on Delmon Young.

AL West

• For Jurickson Profar, it's hello, Round Rock, writes Randy Galloway.

• Kevin Sherrington talks about the Rangers' prospect not named Profar or Olt who is the next big thing.

• Mitch Moreland has been a spring star for Texas.

• Chip Bailey writes about the Astros' rotation.

• The Astros got a glimpse of their future.

• The Angels have a star-laden lineup.

AL Central

• Terry Francona is eager to see his speedy lineup take off. Francona gave some clues about how he's going to structure his lineup.

• Lorenzo Cain hopes to bring a sprinter's approach to center field, writes Bob Dutton.

• Addison Reed is putting in work this spring, as Mark Gonzales writes.

• Dayan Viciedo seems primed for a breakout year.

AL East

• Ricky Romero had a difficult time with the news that he was sent down. Pitching coach Pete Walker blames himself for not making changes with Romero's delivery earlier in spring.

• The Yankees need to have a 2013 version of Aaron Small to win, writes Joel Sherman.

Guys to target in fantasy baseball.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Friends who play fantasy baseball ask me all the time about possible picks, and while I don't know about value relative to the rounds in a fantasy draft in the way Eric Karabell or Matthew Berry do, these are some of the names I've mentioned to them -- players who aren't necessarily at the top of rankings.

1. Paul Maholm | LHP, Atlanta Braves

He doesn't throw particularly hard and he's had middling success so far in his career. But he's a smart guy who, at 30, has accumulated a lot of knowledge, and there's something about him that reminds me of Jamie Moyer in how he seems to be gradually figuring out how to get maximum use out of the pitching weapons he has. Last year, the percentage of fastballs he threw dropped dramatically, from 52.2 percent to 41.4 percent, and the number of sliders increased to a career-high 30.4 percent -- and his strikeout-to-walk ratio jumped significantly, to 2.64. He has started to learn how to use hitters' natural anxiety against them.

After posting a 3.66 ERA for the Pirates in 2011, he had a 3.67 ERA for the Cubs and Braves in 2012, and in 2013, he'll be pitching in front of some really good defensive infielders, in Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman, and a pretty good defensive outfield, in Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton.

I don't think he's ever going to win a Cy Young Award, but he could have a pretty good season.

2. Josh Beckett | RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

All the elements are in place for a major statistical bounce-back season: He's switching from the heavy-hitting AL East to the lighter lineup fare of the NL West, and like a lot of veteran pitchers, he'll make good use of the pitcher's spot in deciding whom to work to as he faces the middle of the order with runners on base. Plus, Dodger Stadium is a pitcher's dream, with the distant outfield fences and the night air. It's a small sample size, but in his three starts in his new home ballpark after being traded by Boston last year, Beckett allowed three runs and struck out 20 in 18 innings. This will be a very different place for him than Fenway Park, if he can stay healthy.

3. Elvis Andrus | SS, Texas Rangers

For starters, he's a good player already, an All-Star, and one of the best shortstops in the game. But while he has played in two World Series and has more than 2,000 at-bats in the big leagues, he's still just 24 years old, and he seems to be like Yadier Molina, learning more and more about hitting. And he's not some pipsqueak middle infielder. He's something in the range of 205 pounds, and he seems to be learning how to drive the ball more and more; I wonder if his career arc as a hitter will be something like that of Jimmy Rollins.

In 2010 he had 18 extra-base hits and a .643 OPS, and last year those numbers were 43 and .727, respectively. You could see a year coming up when he racks up 60 extra-base hits and has a much greater impact offensively.

4. Matt Carpenter | IF, St. Louis Cardinals

Some guys just know how to hit, and no matter what other questions there are about them, their ability to produce at the plate does not waver. Carpenter seems to be one of those guys. The guy has never been a top prospect, having been picked in the 13th round in 2009, but at every level, Carpenter has hit. He had 1,448 plate appearances in the minor leagues and had just about as many walks (210) as strikeouts (212). He swings the bat and makes contact, which is why he had an on-base percentage over .400 at just about every level in the minors.

Going into last season, Carpenter had only 19 plate appearances in the big leagues, and yet St. Louis decided to open the year with him on its bench, projected as a pinch hitter -- which is extremely rare. Teams don't usually count on unproven players as primary bench guys, because playing irregularly usually damages their production. Why did the Cardinals keep him? Because he hits. And in 114 games, Carpenter batted .294 with a .365 on-base percentage, and 33 extra-base hits.

Because of David Freese's back trouble, Carpenter is set to open this year at third base, and if Freese comes back, Carpenter will move to second. I don't know if that move will be permanent, or if the Cardinals will have to find some other spot. But I do think this: He's going to hit. Because some guys just know how to hit, and given unusual ability in his craft, I'd bet that he'll be one of those guys who gradually learns how to hit for more power, as he picks more spots to be aggressive.

5. Justin Smoak | 1B, Seattle Mariners

There are two types of fool's gold in baseball. One can be found in September, when rosters are watered down and some players have mentally checked out, and the other can be located in spring training -- especially in the Cactus League, where the air is thin and the ball just flies. Smoak is essentially presenting the baseball world with both types of fool's gold: He erupted last September, after summer-long struggles, posting a .426 on-base percentage, and he carried that success over into the Mariners' camp this spring, where he hit .434, with an on-base percentage of close to .500.

I'm not saying that Smoak has transformed into the next Ted Williams, and I'm not saying he's an All-Star caliber player. What I am saying is that scouts have liked his swing for years, which is why he was a first-round draft pick, and that they do think he's doing a better job at putting himself in position to hit. The fact that Smoak will finally be surrounded by some experienced middle-of-the-order hitters, such as Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, can only help him, because there have been times when he has been Seattle's only legitimate power hitter. There will be more pressure on opposing pitchers this year, and I think Smoak will be part of that.

6. Jon Lester | LHP, Boston Red Sox

Some players are masters of stoicism, so resolute in their outward demeanor that you can't really read how they are feeling about themselves. Tim Hudson can be an example of this; Mariano Rivera, for sure.

But Lester tends to be on the other end of this extreme, with every emotion spilling out of him pitch to pitch -- every disagreement over a ball-strike interpretation with the umpire, every bit of unhappiness over decision-making by his manager. Players with other teams remarked last summer about he often stared down his former manager, Bobby Valentine, as pitching changes were made.

Well, it's a new year, a new challenge, and some rival evaluators are seeing a new Lester on the mound -- a more focused Lester, a less distracted version of him.

Last year, his ERA rocketed to 4.82, including a 5.23 ERA in the second half. He's better than that, and my guess is that we'll see a lot more of that, and less of Lester's outward frustration.

7. Evan Gattis | C/OF, Atlanta Braves

Gerald Laird has been nicked up with a calf injury, Brian McCann is still building up arm strength … which makes you wonder if Gattis will wind up getting a fair amount of games (50? 60?) at catcher this season. And he hits with big-time power.

ESPN Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney
Buster Olney discusses if Johan Santana is a Hall of Famer with Jerry Crasnick. Plus, he continues his division previews with the AL West.

More Podcasts »

The Rondon decision

The Detroit Tigers sent Bruce Rondon to the minors to start the year. Hey, if they think he could benefit from a few more baby steps in the minors, why not? They've got a lot of time to fix the closer issue, and as I've written here a couple of times, Phil Coke did look comfortable finishing games during the postseason last year.

The closer job is up for grabs, writes Lynn Henning.

At the movies

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman gave another news conference the other day to discuss another injury, surrounded by reporters asking questions about a situation that has seemed increasingly dire. First it was Curtis Granderson, then it was Mark Teixeira, and lately it has been all about Derek Jeter.

Cashman has stood there time and again -- actually, with one leg propped on a wheelie thing, because he shattered a leg while skydiving this spring -- and watching this the other day, an appropriate movie scene popped into my head. Which got me to thinking, about other teams and players ...

The Dodgers' new management mantra.

This might as well be Bryce Harper, the most confident player on a very confident team.

This is what Roy Halladay has been coping with.

The Padres, a team that seems constantly ravaged by injuries. (In a related note: A San Diego infielder will miss six weeks.)

This is a saying most applicable to the Red Sox of 2012. But not so much this year.

The fans of the Pirates and Royals understand this.

The Marlins.

The low-revenue clubs like the Athletics and Rays, in dealing with big-market teams.

Robinson Cano, circa 2013.

This is Mike Trout.

The Twins' plan for their 2013 pitching staff.

The Houston Astros' outlook.

And while we're at it, it's worth remembering what this great game is.

Santana's injury

In the first minutes and hours after Johan Santana threw 134 pitches to complete a no-hitter last summer, Terry Collins fretted about whether he had done the right thing in leaving the pitcher in the game. He knew, as the game played out, what could be at stake for an aging pitcher coming back from a shoulder operation.

This debate will never be resolved to anyone's complete satisfaction, because there's no way to know exactly when Santana tore his shoulder capsule for a second time; he probably will miss all of 2013, and it may be that he will never pitch in the big leagues again.

But I'd bet the family farm on this, because of the type of competitor that Santana always has been and always will be: When he's 70 years old and answering questions from his grandkids about his career, he will have no regrets about that night against the Cardinals. And he will know that even with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, he would go back out for the ninth inning if he had a chance to do it all over again.

This was the most expensive no-hitter every thrown, writes Mike Lupica.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Giants announced the extensions for Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy. Both are now signed for the next four seasons, and it's worth noting how far up the ladder of all-time wins leaders Bochy could be within that time. He's currently 23rd, and if the Giants win half their games in the next four years, he'll probably leap to 15th.

Bochy and Sabean are the Giants now, writes Tim Kawakami.

2. The Rockies have cut Ramon Hernandez. I wonder if he'd be a fit with the Giants, given his history playing for Bochy, when both were with the Padres.

3. Miguel Olivo re-signed with the Marlins.

4. The Astros set their roster.

5. The Rangers hope to trade Julio Borbon.

6. Ryan Sweeney is out, having been told he's not going to be on Boston's 40-man roster.

7. It looks as though Lyle Overbay is going to make the Yankees' roster.

8. The Brewers are leaning toward a 13-man pitching staff.

9. Oakland has one big decision remaining, writes Susan Slusser.

10. Charlie Manuel's status will hang over the Phillies all year, writes Matt Gelb.

The battle for jobs

1. Nolan Arenado lost his bid to be the Rockies' third baseman.

2. Jason Bay might have the edge for the Mariners' last outfield spot.

3. Chris Coghlan made the Marlins' roster.

4. A couple of youngsters made the Texas bullpen.

Dings and dents

1. Jonny Venters is going to see James Andrews.

Thursday's games

1. Kyle Lohse made his Brewers debut, and felt good about it.

2. Lance Lynn went back to some old drills.

3. Justin Masterson looks ready to go.

4. Tim Lincecum had another rough go of it in spring training, but says he's ready.

NL East

• Gio Gonzalez says the Nationals are mentally ready.

• The Nationals have packed up and headed home.

• The future is now for the Phillies, writes Bob Brookover.

NL Central

• Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals cemented faith in each other.

• A.J. Burnett is done rehashing what happened to the Pirates last year.

• The Pirates' grounds crew has been dealing with some inclement weather.

• Optimism abounds for the Reds, writes Paul Daugherty.

• Joey Votto has taken a new approach to sliding, writes Tim Schmitt.

NL West

• Trevor Cahill is ready for his first start.

• A Dodgers rookie impressed.

AL East

• It has been a happy few days for J.A. Happ. Ricky Romero is upset about his demotion, writes John Lott. From his story, there is this from Romero:

"You get knocked down like that right after the game, it's something you don't expect," Romero said during his first interview since his demotion. "It hurts and it hits me to the bottom of my heart, because I care so much and I've worked so hard for everything I have."

His first reaction: "'Is this supposed to help my confidence?' When it first happens, you're kind of like, 'Whoa.' A million thoughts go through your head. I don't know if you guys have ever been fired from a job, and you go and sit at home and say, 'What the hell did I do wrong?'"


He claimed he is not angry at general manager Alex Anthopoulos or manager John Gibbons or the coaches who eventually bought into the unanimous decision to send him down. But he adamantly disagrees with their assessment.

"In no way, shape or form do I want to be here, and I don't have to agree with the decisions they make," he said.

And later: "I don't belong here, to be honest with you. This is not for me. I'm a big-league pitcher and I'm confident in all my capabilities that I can get up there and help that team win."

• It appears Jackie Bradley Jr. will face the Yankees on Opening Day. John Farrell says he's not afraid to keep Bradley.

• Jake Arrieta says this is the year.

• The Yankees are a wreck as they head north, writes Joel Sherman.

• No matter who the Rays' No. 5 starter is, seven innings is wanted from that guy.

• The Rays are feeling better about their depth.

AL Central

• The Royals' roster is set, except for one spot.

• Joe Mauer and his pitchers will bond on the go.

• The Indians are expecting a winner, writes Terry Pluto.

• Jake Peavy has been working a lot on his legs.

AL West

• Ryan Madson is not quite ready to go.

• Jered Weaver holds the hope of the Angels in his hand, writes Jeff Miller.

Position change likely in Posey's future.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
HOUSTON -- Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin will tell you that it was his son's idea, years ago, to move the team's star shortstop to catcher. The Seminoles had a developing surplus in the middle infield and something of a hole at catcher, but the coach wasn't initially interested in the idea, because the shortstop was really good at what he did and was a natural leader.

But the more that Martin thought about it, the more he liked the notion. So he and his son raised the idea with the shortstop, Buster Posey.

It has been as a catcher that Posey has been able to do things that nobody in the history of baseball accomplished in the first two-plus years of his career. A Rookie of the Year, a Most Valuable Player Award, a batting title, all the while playing behind the plate.

When Posey was in spring training for the first time with the Giants, there was some concern about how good of a defensive catcher he would be, because he didn't have a lot of experience at the position. Now the Giants' staff has a lot of respect for Posey in the way he plays, because of his diligence.

At least part of the reason the Giants invested a record-setting contract in Posey is because of what he brings behind the plate, which was demonstrated repeatedly during the team's two championship runs, like how he settled down Jonathan Sanchez in the midst of the 2010 World Series.

But lest there be any doubt, what separates Posey is his offensive ability, his simple approach to the plate. He drives fastballs to the opposite field, he pulls breaking balls, and he is an extraordinary two-strike hitter; last year, only Joey Votto had a higher on-base percentage in two-strike situations than Posey.

So after the Posey deal was announced Friday, some rival talent evaluators began to wonder when the Giants will start to consider moving Posey to another spot.

"He's a great hitter, and you have to protect that, long-term," said a longtime NL scout.

His athleticism and versatility are part of the reason why the Giants were willing to give him the longest contract ever doled out to a catcher. The San Francisco staff knows that, in time, Posey would be able to move to third base or first base and probably play his next position pretty well. Last year, Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave Posey some half-days off by starting him at first in 29 games; he started 111 games at catcher.

The Giants don't really have an heir apparent at catcher, the guy they know could take over for Posey. They have some time to think about that, to develop or acquire another catcher, to see how current first baseman Brandon Belt evolves and to see if Pablo Sandoval will continue to battle his weight issues.

But it figures that the clock has started ticking on Posey's time as catcher, whether it's two years or longer. The Giants got a nightmarish reminder 22 months about how much more risk there is for a catcher, when Scott Cousins ran over Posey and shattered his ankle, and know full well what kind of toll Posey's position can take on a player.

Posey never wavered after he got injured. He wants to be a catcher, having grown to love the position he first tried in college. But the Giants want him in their lineup, for at least the next nine years.

From ESPN Stats & Info, more on the Posey deal: The contract is the longest ever for a catcher and trails only Joe Mauer's $184 million in terms of total value among catchers. It's also the most money ever guaranteed to a player with fewer than three years of service time.

Largest contracts for catchers in MLB history, by total value
Joe Mauer -- $184M -- Twins (2011-18)
Buster Posey -- $167M -- Giants (2013-21)
Mike Piazza -- $91M -- Mets (1999-2005)
Yadier Molina -- $75M -- Cardinals (2013-17)

Catchers to win MVP award, National League history
Buster Posey -- Giants (2012)
Johnny Bench* -- Reds (1970, '72)
Roy Campanella* -- Dodgers (1951, '53, '55)
Ernie Lombardi* -- Reds (1938)
Gabby Hartnett* -- Cubs (1935)
* = Baseball Hall of Famer

Posey deserved this deal, writes Tim Kawakami.

Posey gets to stay with a team he says he loves, writes Henry Schulman.

Pablo Sandoval is back in action and says he'll be ready for Monday's opener.


• It almost goes without saying, given the vast history of pitchers signed to long-term deals, from Wayne Garland to Kevin Brown to Denny Neagle to Mike Hampton to Barry Zito, but these contracts almost never work out.

But if you were going to give a 30-year-old pitcher a contract that could pay him $202 million over the next eight seasons, Justin Verlander would be that guy. Right after he was drafted by the Tigers, he bought a place in Lakeland, Fla., and began moving down there in January to get a jump on his conditioning for spring training. Every winter, he has worked on keeping his legs fit. He has always been in phenomenal condition, he is an exceptional athlete, he has relatively clean mechanics, and like CC Sabathia, he has the kind of understanding of pitching, the vast repertoire and the competitiveness to make it work as he gets older.

With his new deal in place, Verlander hopes to finish his career in Detroit. This is the largest deal ever given to a pitcher, writes Lynn Henning. This marks a great day for Detroit, writes Drew Sharp.

Verlander is the king of social media among the Tigers, writes Adam Graham.

From ESPN Stats & Info, more on the Verlander deal: This topped the Felix Hernandez contract for the richest deal for a pitcher in baseball history. Verlander's contract is for $180 million over seven years with the potential for $202 million if the eighth year vests.

Largest contracts for pitchers in MLB history, by total value
Justin Verlander -- $180M -- Tigers (2013-19)
Felix Hernandez -- $175M -- Mariners (2013-19)
CC Sabathia -- $161M -- Yankees (2009-15)
Zack Greinke -- $147M -- Dodgers (2013-18)
Cole Hamels -- $144M -- Phillies (2013-18)

Justin Verlander, since 2009
Wins -- 78 (1st)
Starts -- 135 (1st)
WHIP -- 1.08 (1st*)
K -- 977 (1st)
Pitcher WAR -- 26.0 (1st)
IP -- 953 2/3 (2nd)
* = Minimum 500 IP

Most 100-plus mph pitches in last four seasons, among starting pitchers (including playoffs)
Justin Verlander -- 170
Ubaldo Jimenez -- 51
Stephen Strasburg -- 18
Andrew Cashner -- 18
Note: Eight others have combined for 22

• With Verlander's deal in place, Clayton Kershaw could be even more expensive. Neither the team nor the pitcher will talk about ongoing negotiations.

If the Dodgers finish the Kershaw deal -- and I think they will, relatively quickly -- it would mean that nearly $700 million will have been doled out to four players in the last week, among Posey, Verlander, Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. And the upcoming free-agent classes have been weakened, again. Right now, the most prominent free-agent pitcher for the fall appears to be Josh Johnson of the Jays, and he'll have a whole lot at stake this summer.

• For Jackie Bradley Jr., the waiting continues.

• Jurickson Profar's time will come, says Jon Daniels.

• Roberto Hernandez beat out Jeff Niemann to make the Tampa Bay rotation.

• C.J. Wilson says communication is a reason why many leave the Rangers.

• J.J. Watt tested his hitting skills Friday.

The fight for jobs

1. There is word within this Derrick Goold notebook that Oscar Taveras is going to do some work in left field.

2. The Royals picked George Kottaras over Brett Hayes.

3. Tyler Colvin was sent to Triple-A.

4. Justin Sellers hopes to be the Dodgers' shortstop.

5. Kyle Blanks was sent to the minors.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Doug Fister will get the ball in the Tigers' home opener.

2. Mike Matheny intends to shuffle his lineup, if necessary.

3. The Cubs are still trolling for talent, writes Paul Sullivan.

4. The Twins have to decide who their No. 2 hitter is, Mike Berardino writes.

5. Paul Goldschmidt and the D-backs are finishing a five-year deal. An announcement on the deal is expected to come Saturday, writes Steve Gilbert.

6. Charlie Manuel is not settled on how he'll structure his lineup.

7. Wilson Ramos will start over Kurt Suzuki on Opening Day, writes Amanda Comak.

8. The Yankees are still poking around and looking for ways to improve.

9. Brian Roberts is going to hit ninth for the Orioles.

10. Ryan Flaherty made the Orioles' roster.

11. The Orioles added two more pitchers, trading for Scott Proctor and signing Freddy Garcia.

Dings and dents

1. Some guys with the White Sox passed health tests.

2. Luke Scott is likely going on the disabled list.

3. Alex White felt some discomfort in his elbow.

4. Johan Santana's career is not over, says his agent.

5. Alex Rodriguez showed off his latest rehab efforts.

6. Mark Teixeira is optimistic about his return.

Teixeira is diligent and accountable, so it's admirable for him to set a goal for a comeback, but if I worked in the Yankees' front office, I might chat with Teixeira and ask him not to put that kind of pressure on his return. His injury is the sort that can easily regress if he does too much too soon -- and if that happens, he might miss the whole season. For a hitter, this is the type of injury that has to be just about completely healed before he gets back on the field, because of the daily regimen of dozens and dozens of swings and the torque that this places on the wrist. This is not a case of working through soreness, like a hamstring injury; this is a case of rehabilitating functionality.

Friday's games

1. Patrick Corbin dominated.

2. A.J. Ellis was The Man for the Dodgers.

AL East

The Rays feel good about their depth.

Some Yankees fans have a sinking feeling, writes Harvey Araton.

Bruce Arthur writes about the rebuilding of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Scott Boras loves his Red Sox, writes Michael Silverman.

AL Central

Paul Hoynes writes about what the possible switch in leagues could do for Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs.

Ubaldo Jimenez has looked confident this spring.

For the Twins' Cole De Vries, spring training does matter, even down to the last day.

AL West

The Mariners are going to be good this year, says Felix Hernandez. Geoff Baker is picking Seattle to finish third this season in the AL West.

Matt Harrison is keeping his head as he prepares for his Opening Day start.

The Rangers' bullpen situation is still a bit blurry, Gil LeBreton writes.

A.J. Griffin has been compared to an established big leaguer, as Susan Slusser writes.

The Oakland bullpen could be really good this year, writes Carl Steward.

NL East

There's buzz about these Braves, writes David O'Brien.

It's time to reboot the history of baseball in D.C., writes Thomas Boswell.

Ruben Amaro gave candid answers about his hot seat, writes Sam Donnellon. From Sam's piece:

Q: You've been deemed the village idiot and you've been deemed emperor over your tenure so far. How about you? Do you feel any job vulnerability these days?

A: Listen. I will never make all the right decisions. I will never -- hopefully -- make all the wrong decisions. I have a pretty acute understanding of what our fans want and what is necessary. Listen, nobody wants to win baseball games more than me, and David Montgomery and our ownership group and the rest of this organization. We don't rest a lot. We don't sleep a lot. And the reason why is because we're dedicated to putting the best product on the field that we can. At the same time we may not be able to do that every year. That's the goal.

When I took over I told myself that this franchise, this ownership group, with what they've given me the resources to do. This organization. This fan base most importantly, deserves to have a contender every year. I've talked to David a lot about this. If we keep our payroll north of what the average is, then I should be intelligent enough, our group should be intelligent enough, to put a contending team on the field every year. Whether we're retooling in 2014, transitioning, whatever you want to call it -- we should be good enough to put a contending team on the field every single year. And that's my job and that continues to be my job. So that's the pressure I have, internally. And that's the expectation I have every year. We're going to be a contender every single year. Are we going to win the division and be in the playoffs every year? I don't know that. But that's absolutely the goal every single season.

NL Central

The Cardinals had an eventful spring training, writes Derrick Goold.

For Ryan Ludwick, it's team first.

Dusty Baker is ready for spring training to end, writes Tim Schmitt.

Jeff Samardzija is ready for Opening Day, writes Carrie Muskat.

Pirates' big leaguers are returning to their roots, writes Karen Price.

NL West

After the 50 days of the Colorado spring training, Patrick Saunders has some thoughts.

Jesus Guzman of the Padres is a real professional, writes Dennis Lin.
post #10398 of 73439
Thread Starter 
The beauty of MLB Opening Day.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
HOUSTON -- The guy who is the No. 2 starting pitcher for the Houston Astros, a team expected to lose a lot of games this summer, stood in the Houston dugout Saturday and talked pitching with former pitchers Orel Hershiser and Steve Sparks.

Well, let's rephrase that. The word talked doesn't really do justice to Lucas Harrell. With great passion, what he really did was articulate, advocate, enjoin, dictate, concede, commend and most importantly, he inquired, of Hershiser and Sparks. He listened, with even more energy than when he spoke, absorbing what he was told and repurposing it for his own use.

Harrell discussed his cutter grip, and the challenge of finishing a breaking ball instead of casting it. Without realizing it, he ran through a personal oral history of pitch sequences to B.J. Upton and a half-dozen other big league hitters he has faced -- the count, the pitch selection, the thought process, the chess match, the execution. He talked about how he gives signs to the catcher when the hitter's not looking. He talked about what he's seen in Mariano Rivera, Greg Maddux and others.

In those few minutes, Harrell inadvertently provided a reminder of why Opening Day is so great. Seven hundred fifty players -- the 25 on each of the 30 rosters -- will seek solutions, as Harrell does. Some might have less ardor than Harrell, but they begin today with the hope of change for the better, hope of improvement, hope for a breakthrough.

The Texas Rangers, who open against the Astros here tonight in the first game of the 2013 season, hope to find enough production from Lance Berkman, A.J. Pierzynski and others to offset the losses of Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, and return to the playoffs yet again. The Astros' Bo Porter will manage his first game here in Houston, his wife's hometown, believing that his vision for team-building matched that of owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Porter might've been a candidate to be the Washington Nationals' next manager to follow Davey Johnson, but the idea of creating something on a clean slate attracted him, in spite of the long road in front of the Astros.

Roy Halladay has a Hall of Fame resume and yet he will make his first start looking for solutions, as he evolves in the last year of his current contract. Bryce Harper, fueled by the experience and understanding he gained last summer, seems poised to overwhelm the game he has played since he was a little boy. Mike Trout wants fewer strikeouts and more walks.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have one focus: playoff berth or bust. B.J. and Justin Upton never really thought they would play together as professionals, but now when one brother turns in the Atlanta Braves outfield, he'll see the other. Joey Votto, an MVP winner, is forever convinced there is something he can do better. The Detroit Tigers will open this season burning to put themselves in position to take the last step in their climb.

Today, it all seems possible, whether you're Lucas Harrell or Justin Verlander. Carpe diem.

The Astros will try to make their dream a reality, writes Brian Smith.

• There's no getting around it: Starlin Castro just looks older. His face looks different, his upper body has filled out, and he just seems older. Teammates have noticed it, too, in little things, like how he runs out to his position, how he carries himself on the field, how much more focused he is. And there is this: "He's stopped swinging at so many bad pitches," said one teammate.

The first segment of Castro's career has been pretty good, albeit marked by moments of immaturity, like the night he wasn't watching as his teammate pitched. Castro turned 23 eight days ago, and since 1961, only five other players have had more hits than Castro and his 529 before their 23rd birthday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Since 1920, only 14 players have more hits than Castro before their 23rd birthday.

If Castro continues to develop his plate discipline, he could be a very different and even more dangerous hitter this season.

Paul Sullivan has nine questions about the Cubs.

This really stinks: Darwin Barney cut his knee in the Cubs' final exhibition game, and may start the year on the disabled list.

• I've heard this over and over and over from evaluators who spent their spring in Arizona: The Mariners are going to be a very different offensive team, and will be improved. "I don't know if they'll be good enough to make the playoffs," said one veteran staffer, "but they killed the ball against us. Up and down the lineup. They're swinging it." He ran off the names of Michael Saunders, Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Justin Smoak. "Very different," he said.

There are more questions about the rotation, Ryan Divish writes.

• Predictions are one of the ridiculous things that we all do, and one of the most fun (see: NCAA tourney brackets). We have no idea who is going to get hurt, who is going to be traded, who is going to suffer some personal setback that affects his play. We don't know. We look at the sparse handful of tea leaves provided through the offseason and spring training, set against the backdrop against recent history, and we guess. Mostly, we are wrong.

But hey, here it goes:

I've got the Orioles, Tigers and Athletics winning their respective divisions in the AL, with the Rangers and Angels getting in as wild-card teams. I filed these predictions a few weeks ago, and if I had waited until today, I might've dropped the Angels, whose pitching problems have been acute this spring, with no end in sight. I have very little confidence in my AL East pick, because any of the five teams could finish first, depending on injuries, and each of them is capable of finishing last; I cannot remember a division with that kind of depth. I think the Orioles have much more pitching than they're given credit for. The Red Sox are going to be better. The Rays could win the division if Matt Moore takes a big stride forward as a pitcher. And the Blue Jays could win it if they solve their bullpen problems.

I can't remember the last time I picked the Yankees to miss the playoffs -- it might've been back in the Stump Merrill days -- but their lineup problems are deep and perhaps unsolvable. It's not clear what they're going to get out of Mark Teixeira, and if the legendarily tough Derek Jeter is too sore to run to first base as a DH, there's no telling if they'll get much help from him at all this summer.

The Tigers are ridiculously good, and unless they are hit by a wave of injuries, it's hard to imagine what would take them down.

In the National League, I had the Nationals, Reds and Diamondbacks winning their respective divisions, with the Braves and Giants making it as wild-card teams. If I could have a do-over today, I'd probably have the Giants as the division winner -- the injury to Arizona's Adam Eaton really hurts the Diamondbacks -- and I think I would put in the Phillies in as a wild-card team, because the three best teams in the NL East are going to absolutely feast on the Mets and Marlins, teams capable of losing 100-plus games.

The Nationals and Reds are the two most complete, well-rounded teams in the majors, and under that standard I think there's a gap between those two teams and the rest of baseball. The Tigers have a closer question, the Braves have a powerful lineup filled with guys who nonetheless strike out a lot, and the three AL West leaders all have some major question marks. But Washington and Cincinnati do everything well, and the two teams have depth.

The Dodgers have big names and big stars, but questions persist about many of them. Is Zack Greinke's elbow issue going to pop up again? Are Adrian Gonzalez's days as an elite power hitter behind him? Can Carl Crawford be healthy, and productive? Does Hanley Ramirez have a place to play as he comes back?

In the World Series, I've got the Nationals beating the Tigers, which is terrible news for both of those teams, because last year, I had Tampa Bay beating Arizona, and we know how that turned out.

Other news

• Douglas Hanks and Barry Jackson detail the ugly financial situation that hovers over the Marlins' new ballpark, with some access to financial records.

If the Marlins want anybody to take their financial plight seriously, they will need to fully open their financial records -- not partially.

• Bernie Miklasz believes the day is near that the National League adopts the designated hitter. I'm not sure that I disagree with him, because as he writes, the difference in the rules will be highlighted every day, all summer long.

The fight for jobs

1. Steve Pearce beat out Conor Jackson for the last spot on the Baltimore roster.

2. The Dodgers kept another shortstop.

3. Spring training was a roller coaster for Hank Conger, but he made the team.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Nationals should lock up GM Mike Rizzo now, writes Thomas Boswell.

2. Ruben Amaro explained his 25-man roster.

3. Julio Borbon is taking the final spot on the Rangers' roster, for now.

4. Walt Weiss explained the Tyler Colvin decision.
Dings and dents

1. Johan Santana is having more surgery, as expected.

2. David Ortiz is about 10 days away from live at-bats, and Stephen Drew is even closer.

3. Luke Scott could be out five weeks, writes Marc Topkin.

4. Pablo Sandoval is more confident he will play Monday, given his work on Saturday.

NL East

The Nationals are built to last, writes Adam Kilgore.

Halladay is facing his biggest challenge, writes Matt Gelb.

The Marlins are still worth watching, writes Dave George.

Greg Cote writes about the disconnect between the Marlins' leadership and the fans.

Craig Kimbrel is trying to meet his own standards.

NL Central

Andrew McCutchen is now the face of the Pirates' franchise.

A deep rotation gives the Pirates lofty expectations, writes Rob Biertempfel.

Johnny Cueto is in full control as the Reds' ace.

Hal McCoy thinks the Reds' rotation should be solid.

Cubs fans are not quitters, writes Rick Morrissey.

Yovani Gallardo is the Brewers' ace.

For the Cardinals, the sky's the limit, writes Derrick Goold.

NL West

The Giants are ready to get cranked up, writes Steve Kroner.

The Dodgers have a lot of ability, Dylan Hernandez writes.

Petco Park might be more hitter friendly for the Padres, writes Dennis Lin.

Walt Weiss was born to run the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.

The Diamondbacks have less flash and more dash, writes Nick Piecoro. Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson created the type of team they want.

AL East

The Yankees got some worldly perspective at West Point.

Andy Pettitte expects the Yankees to be in the World Series, writes George King.

Robinson Cano will need to hit with more plate discipline, writes Joel Sherman.

Peter Schmuck thinks the Orioles will prove doubters wrong and make the playoffs.

The Red Sox are searching for an identity, writes Tim Britton.

Jon Lester is standing tall this spring.

All systems are go for the Blue Jays, says John Gibbons.

There is a method to the lineup madness for Joe Maddon.

Evan Longoria has his sights set on his first ring, writes Martin Fennelly.

AL Central

Brett Myers finished his final spring training with a good outing.

Sheldon Ocker thinks Cleveland is an 80-win team because of its starting pitching.

Joe Mauer is about to turn 30, and Mike Berardino writes about all that this signifies.

A baserunner really irritated Ron Gardenhire, and the manager wasn't pleased with Mike Pelfrey's day. From the story:

Pelfrey allowed nine hits and four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. "He got his innings in," Gardenhire said. "He got his pitches in. Put it that way. He took forever. You have to have a pace in a game. He's working on some things. ... So you give a little bit of leeway, but you have a pace to the game. I think that's why we had misplays, when you do that, just standing out there. It's a work in progress. Let's put it that way."

Pelfrey said he's ready to start the season.

"I am," Pelfrey said. "I thought that I was pretty good today; I wanted to work on my slider. ... It's my fourth-best pitch."

There is real hope for the Royals, writes Sam Mellinger.

The Tigers finished spring training in good shape.

Phil Coke has the right stuff no matter the role, writes John Lowe.

AL West

The Rangers are opening their season with confidence, despite offseason misfires.

Felix Hernandez is not concerned about the shorter fences in Safeco. Nor should he be. He's The King.

For the Athletics, the Buster Posey deal highlights the financial divide between the two Bay Area teams.

Defining success for also-rans.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Commissioner Bud Selig is fond of saying that under his watch, revenue sharing and the addition of two wild cards have allowed more teams than ever to begin the season with at least some hope of reaching the postseason. Perhaps that's true, but realistically it doesn't apply to everyone. In five of the six divisions, there's at least one team with almost no chance for glory in 2013.

Even if there's little likelihood of success between the lines, these teams can -- must, really -- identify ways to make 2013 a successful season, rather than just marking time as endless games go by. These teams can learn more about what they have, what they don't and what they need to do to get back into contention.

For these clubs, success this season will be defined in ways other than victories.

Miami Marlins

Attempt to win back some sort of public goodwill by proving that the latest fire sale brought back the core of the next good Marlins team.

The Marlins were rightfully flogged after the deals that shipped out Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Anibal Sanchez, raising the white flag after just a single season in their new publicly-funded park. That series of moves has shrunk the Opening Day payroll from just more than $100 million in 2012 to about a third of that this season, leaving them with only Giancarlo Stanton and what's likely to be a whole lot of empty seats.

Miami fans might feel betrayed by the moves, but the Marlins can help redeem themselves this season by showing that the deals made sense from a baseball perspective, not just a financial one. Catcher Rob Brantly (.290/.372/.460 in 113 plate appearances after coming from Detroit), pitchers Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi (4.13 FIP in 22 starts between Los Angeles and Miami) and slick-fielding rookie shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria all arrived in the deals and will start the season with the Marlins. They'll soon be joined by fellow trade acquisitions in outfielder Jake Marisnick and pitchers Justin Nicolino and Jacob Turner, plus two top prospects the team already had -- pitcher Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich.

It won't be easy for the Marlins to swing the tide of public opinion back their way, but it's important to remember this is a team that lost 93 games last season and 90 in 2011. For this to be a successful season in Miami, the Marlins can win a similar amount of games for a fraction of the cost and with a much brighter future.

Colorado Rockies

Sort out their organizational direction.

It's one thing to say that the Rockies should just fix their lousy pitching staff, because that's been an ongoing concern almost since the day they were born in 1993. This edition of the club has a larger concern to deal with -- they've increasingly become one of the more oddly-run organizations in baseball.

In a five-month span last season, the Rockies ran through one of the more confounding stretches we've seen in years. In June, they announced plans to go to a four-man rotation and limit starters to 75 pitches per outing. While that represented admirable outside-the-box thinking, the timing of the midseason implementation was awkward, and players never seemed to buy into it. In August, the club raised the eyebrows of many by promoting assistant general manager Bill Geivett to perform the duties of a general manager without actually stripping incumbent Dan O'Dowd of the title. Geivett took that one step further, locating his desk within the clubhouse -- a move nearly unheard of in the sport.

By September, they announced the four-man rotation idea would be scrapped for 2013. That was followed by a managerial shakeup in October, as Jim Tracy decided he'd had enough and quit. After a search that included an active player, Jason Giambi, they settled upon former shortstop Walt Weiss, who was previously coaching high school baseball.

The Rockies have plenty of problems on the field and are expected to finish last in 2013. The best thing they can do to change that for the future is to figure out their organizational philosophy and return the focus to building a winning team.

Seattle Mariners

Figure out if they already have the offensive core of the future, or if they need to find one.

Seattle lost 87 games last season and spent the winter applying patches to the offense, importing short-term fixes like Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse. There's plenty of pitching talent on the way, with pitchers Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker all likely to be ready within the year to join the newly-extended Felix Hernandez, but the Mariners need to understand if they have the pieces to upgrade that league-worst offense for years to come.

The team thought it might have done that already with youngsters second baseman Dustin Ackley, catcher Jesus Montero and first baseman Justin Smoak, but all three flopped last season, with Montero's lowly .298 OBP representing the trio's best mark.

There's still hope here, because youth is on their side -- none are older than 26 -- and Smoak put up a red-hot September after switching to a lighter bat. This is probably his last chance to prove himself with Seattle, however, and the Mariners need to find out if Ackley and Montero are for real, as well.

New York Mets

Get the growing pains of their "big three" prospects out of the way in a low-expectation year.

After four straight losing seasons, the Mets head into 2013 with more problems than ever. R.A. Dickey is gone, Johan Santana might be finished and the team arguably doesn't have a single big league quality outfielder. That's going to make for a tough season against the powerhouses of the NL East, but Mets fans have a lot to look forward to thanks to a trio of ready-now young talent.

Matt Harvey made his debut last season and sparkled in 10 late-season starts, striking out 70 in 59 1/3; innings. He'll be joined later in the season by fellow starter Zack Wheeler, one year younger but even more highly-regarded, and also by catcher Travis d'Arnaud, the main prize of the Dickey deal. All three should see considerable time in the big leagues this season. While that won't be enough to allow the Mets to contend this year, there's nothing better they can do than to get the trio fully acclimated to New York while the pressure is at its lowest.

Put another way: The Mets head into this season with Jeremy Hefner in the rotation and John Buck behind the plate. If the team does nothing else but replace them by beginning the careers of the core of the next good New York club, it'll be a worthwhile endeavor.

San Diego Padres

Settle Chase Headley's future, one way or another.

Headley broke out in a huge way in 2012, finishing fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player ballot thanks to 31 home runs and 115 RBIs, along with solid defense. He's set to earn $8.5 million this season and has one remaining season of arbitration beyond that before hitting free agency after 2014.

Unsurprisingly, that combination has had trade rumors swirling around Headley since last summer, especially considering how thin third base is and that large market teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees both need help at the position. The longer the Padres hold on to him, the lower his trade value becomes -- especially if his 2012 was a mirage, considering he hit just four homers the season before -- so it's important to their long-term success that they end the questions and sign him or move him.

If there's any kind of silver lining to the broken thumb that will sideline Headley for the first few weeks of the season, it's that the Padres will get plenty of time to look at 24-year-old prospect Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko is a career .319/.385/.529 hitter in the minors with 55 homers over the past two seasons, but he's been blocked at third base by Headley. With Headley and backup Logan Forsythe both injured, Gyorko is expected to see time both at second base and third base in San Diego this year; his performance will go a long way towards informing the Padres if Headley is expendable or not.

Minnesota Twins

Fully commit to a ground-up rebuild.

The Twins have lost 195 games over the past two seasons, in large part because no team in baseball had a worse FIP than Minnesota did in 2012 -- no, not even the Rockies. Their last-place outlook doesn't seem likely to change in 2013, and giving $14 million to Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey seemed like a large sum of money for an incremental improvement when similar placeholder types could have been found for a fraction of that.

The process of turning this team over began when outfielders Ben Revere and Denard Span were traded for pitching prospects Trevor May and Alex Meyer, along with back-end starter Vance Worley. It's a good start, but the team needs to go further.

Outfielder Josh Willingham is coming off a career year (35 homers and an .890 OPS) and has a reasonable two years left on his contract; he'll be more valuable as a trade chip than he will be on the field for a losing team. The same goes for longtime Twin Justin Morneau, who is headed into the last year of his contract and showed that he could stay healthy and reasonably productive in 2012. If they can get some value out of multi-positional types like Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit as well, all the better; none of these players will be around the next time the Twins see October.

The Twins cost themselves in 2011 by failing to trade Michael Cuddyer in his free-agent walk year, letting him move on to Colorado as a free agent for nothing. If the team plans to truly turn around what's become one of the worst teams in the league, they can't repeat that mistake.

Houston Astros

Find rock bottom this year.

You just can't overstate how bad it's going to be for the Astros in 2013. Take a team that lost 213 games over the plast two seasons, remove the only offensive player who contributed more than two wins above replacement (Jed Lowrie, at 2.6), switch them to one of the toughest divisions in baseball and what you have is a recipe for outright disaster.

GM Jeff Luhnow already traded off all of his respectable veterans last season, other than perhaps starter Bud Norris, so fans don't even have that to look forward to.

What the team can do instead is to make sure that this season is as bad as it gets, and that next season starts the long climb back to respectability. That doesn't mean it won't still be bad -- if the team is as awful as everyone expects this season, it could improve by 10 games in 2014 and still lose more than 100 -- but now that the teardown is finished, the front office can see what's left.

That means finding out if Brett Wallace is ever going to hit, or if Justin Maxwell can be a usable outfielder, and maybe even getting top prospect Jonathan Singleton up after his suspension is over. It'll be ugly in Houston no matter what, but fans and players alike need to begin to see that there's light at the end of this tunnel.

Don't crown the Nats just yet.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's hard to find someone who is betting against the Washington Nationals this season. The enthusiasm has seemingly reached a fevered pitch, and rightly so -- the team boasts an impressive array of talent. But while Washington should be considered a favorite, the Nats are far from a sure thing.

A lot of the enthusiasm is based on the fact that the Nationals won 98 games last season, the most in baseball. But WAR paints a different story. As a team, Washington ranked fifth in team WAR (per FanGraphs) and was closer to 10th place than first.

Now, certainly a team doesn't need to lead the league in WAR to win 100 games. We don't need to go back any further than 2011 to find an example of that; the '11 Phillies posted a 102-60 record while finishing fourth in total WAR.

But then, a 100-win season wouldn't really be an improvement for the Nationals, as that would essentially be the same record as they had last year. No, a real improvement would be a 105-win season -- seven more wins than last year, or just over one more win per month. Since baseball moved to a 162-game season in 1961, this has happened only nine times, and all nine teams were either first or second in their league in WAR -- and usually by a significant amount. The nine teams were on average worth five more WAR than the next-best team. An objective look at the 2013 Nationals does not show such a juggernaut.

One of the main red flags for the Nationals is their lack of rotation depth beyond their five starters -- Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler. After losing John Lannan as a free agent over the winter and waiving Chris Young earlier this week, the team's next-best options are Ross Ohlendorf and Yunesky Maya, neither of whom has posted a positive WAR in either of the past two seasons.

They just received Daniel Rosenbaum back from the Rockies, who picked him in the Rule 5 draft in the winter when Washington left him unprotected. He may be an option at some point, though since the Rockies had been grooming him as a reliever he may need time to get stretched out. On the other hand, he probably isn't an excellent sixth starter either, since he is 25 this season and has not thrown a pitch above Double-A -- not to mention that he was given up by a team desperate for pitching.

[+] Enlarge
Rob Leiter/Getty Images
Strasburg still hasn't proven he can throw 200 IP.

That lack of depth could come back to bite the Nats quickly. Haren spent a good part of last season struggling with a back injury, and his velocity was reportedly lower in his last start than it was at the beginning of spring training. Neither Detwiler nor Strasburg has thrown more than 165 innings in a single professional season.

Perhaps things will work out perfectly for the Nats. It does happen for some teams, like last year's Reds club that got 161 of 162 starts from the same five pitchers. But chances are the Nats will need an extra starter or two as the season progresses, and their in-house options leave plenty to be desired.

Injury concerns are not isolated to the starting rotation. The middle infield is a concern as well. Danny Espinosa is hoping to play the season with a torn left rotator cuff. If he can't play effectively, backup Steve Lombardozzi can't match Espinosa's play offensively or defensively. Shortstop Ian Desmond doesn't have any pressing injuries at the moment, but last season he dealt with a strained oblique, as well as knee and hamstring injuries, in the second half. The ailments didn't derail his performance -- he hit better on a rate basis in the second half -- but after logging 361 plate appearances in the first half, he had just 186 after the break. If he faces similar injuries this year, the Nats will have to turn to the farm or the waiver wire, as they don't have a backup shortstop on the major league roster. (Lombardozzi played only 20 games at shortstop in the minors and just once in the majors.) And that is to say nothing of the increasingly brittle Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.

It also can't be expected that everyone on the Nats will post the same quality seasons they did last year. Adam LaRoche, for one, is a great candidate to regress. At 3.4 WAR, last season was the best of LaRoche's nine major league seasons and was a full win better than his total value from 2009-11. And while everyone expects Harper and Strasburg to be better, there is no telling if they will be better or how much better they will be.

Just because Mike Trout posted a 10-WAR season last year as a 20-year-old doesn't mean Harper is going to do the same now that he is 20. If you look at the progressions of recent 19-year-olds to ascend to the majors, such as Ken Griffey Jr., Robin Yount and Edgar Renteria or even older players in this group like Hall of Famers Al Kaline and Mickey Mantle, you find that growth from players who debut so young is not linear. And that is doubly true for pitchers.

That's not to mention the fact that monster seasons like the one Trout posted last year don't grow on trees, or even on bushes. Since 1947, there have been 13,087 player seasons that have qualified for either the ERA or batting title. Of those 13,087 seasons, just 30 of them -- 0.23 percent -- have exceeded 10 WAR. Harper may have a 10-WAR season in him, and so may Strasburg, and Washington fans are right to hope that they can both put in such campaigns in the same season. But expecting them to A) both have such seasons, and B) have them in the same season is another matter entirely.

The Nationals are one of the favorites in the National League, but that doesn't mean they are on the verge of being historically good. They have some very talented players, but the roster has its holes and there is limited depth to cover for some of the team's creakiest players. They won 98 games last year and return much of the same core, but in reality they weren't head and shoulders above the pack last year.

For further proof, check out FanGraphs' recent Positional Power Rankings. The Nats came out as an 88-win team, one that is not clearly the best in baseball. So while there is plenty to like about the club this year, Washington isn't infallible.

Scouting Shipley, Judge, more.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I made my first-ever trip to Reno, Nev., on Thursday to see a pair of potential first-rounders play at the University of Nevada, with both players showing well on a cool and very windy evening.

• Nevada starter Braden Shipley, a converted shortstop, will probably find himself going in the top half of the first round, with a good chance to go in the top 10, after a strong start to his season that has seen him reach 99 mph and pitch with a 60 fastball and even better changeup. I saw him Thursday night at home against Fresno State, a relatively cold evening, where he started out at 92-95 for two innings but backed off to 89-92 for the remainder of his outing, perhaps owing to the temperature.

He showed a 65 or better changeup, with great arm speed and heavy late action on the pitch, but the pitch calling by Nevada's coach was horrible, as Shipley couldn't finish off right-handed hitters without his curveball, which he didn't throw until there were two outs in the third. The curveball was solid-average at 78-80 with some 11/5 break and plenty of depth, but he doesn't have the feel or consistency on the pitch that he has on the changeup, likely because he doesn't use it enough.

Shipley's arm is extremely quick and the ball isn't visible early, so even at 92 his fastball shouldn't be easy for hitters to pick up. He takes a long stride toward the plate, turning his pitching hand over at about the last possible second (before I'd call it "late"), generating a little arm speed from hip rotation but more from his upper body. He doesn't finish well out over his front side, likely because the stride is long and his arm is so quick once he turns it over.

He is very athletic, fielding his position well and showing no problems repeating the delivery. He is behind Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray but firmly in the next tier of college arms with guys like Jacksonville's Chris Anderson and Arkansas' Ryne Stanek.

• Fresno State center fielder Aaron Judge is also a likely first-rounder, probably falling more toward the back of the round than Shipley will go, but in a draft light on college bats, Judge stands out as one of the most promising.

Judge is a monster at 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, taller than any outfielder in major league history except for Frank Howard (who is listed at 255 pounds as well on Baseball Reference). He is very athletic for a guy his size with a surprisingly short swing given his height. Judge wraps his bat behind his head when he's finished his load, which usually adds length to the swing, but the path for his hands from there to the zone is very short. It's more of a concern that he doesn't have his top hand fully extended until the bat is most of the way through the zone. Like a lot of taller hitters who set up high, he prefers the ball up in the zone, and the huge (70) raw power he shows in BP doesn't always appear in games because he doesn't get under the ball enough to drive it out.

He won't play center in pro ball, but Judge is an average runner who should have above-average range in either corner, with a plus arm to handle right, along the lines of Jason Heyward's defensive profile. Judge has 30-homer potential for a team willing to overlook what might be 150 strikeouts a year, but a poor man's Giancarlo Stanton is still an above-average every-day player.

• Fresno State started left-hander Tyler Linehan, who was 89-92 with a fringy curveball and below-average slider/cutter. He has touched 94 in the past but has a bad body that will probably scare a lot of pro teams off. He needs to improve his conditioning to have a pro career, although I could see him working more consistently in the 90-94 range if he sheds the extra weight.

• One name to remember for next year's draft is Austin Byler, Nevada's third baseman who is off to a huge start, with seven of the Wolfpack's 16 homers so far. (They do play at altitude, about 4,400 feet above sea level.) Undrafted out of Peoria High School in Arizona, Byler is another big kid at 6-3, 225 pounds, with above-average raw power and strong hands at the plate. He is an average runner and made several strong plays at third base, although he's not that loose or agile at the position and may profile better in a corner. He might be a guy for the top 4-5 rounds next year, especially given the chronic lack of college bats in recent drafts.

Scouting Giants, Cubs prospects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
My last day at minor league spring training came on Friday at the Giants' complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the San Francisco Giants' Class A teams were playing the Chicago Cubs', with a pair of solid pitching prospects among the starters.

• The Cubs took right-hander Pierce Johnson in the sandwich round of last year's draft, something made possible by a forearm strain he suffered that spring that took him out of first-round contention. He showed three promising pitches on Friday, working at 89-94 mph, more at the high end of that range starting in the second inning, with a slider that ranged from average to plus in the 70-84 range as well as an average change at 80-82 that he used to left- and right-handed hitters.

He also showed better fastball command in that outing than he had previously in the spring. I wasn't a fan of his arm action when he was at Missouri State, and it's still the same today -- he turns his pitching hand over extremely late, as he's bringing his forearm forward to release the ball, in a way that puts a lot of pressure directly on the elbow, called "valgus stress."

Turning the ball over is generally a positive thing for a pitcher because of the action it can put on the ball, but turning it over this late is unusual, and not something I want to see in a pitcher who's had forearm problems. If this is an empty concern, he's got the size and stuff to be a solid No. 3 starter down the road.

• The Giants started lefty Adalberto Mejia, who had a solid season in low Class A Augusta's rotation last year at age 19. Mejia is a big kid, listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, but looking a good bit thicker than that, and was sitting 90-92 from a slot just under three-quarters.

He was struggling with his breaking ball on Friday, throwing a true slider at 82 mph, then getting too far on top of it so it was more curveball-like at 83, later getting caught between the slider and fastball and throwing an accidental cutter at 87. (I say "accidental" because he threw it just once.) He also showed a fringy but potentially average or better change at 80-82. His arm action is clean start to finish, although his arm is not quick at all and I don't see more velocity in there unless that picks up. He's probably a reliever down the road, but there are a few things he could improve to become a potential starter.

• Mac Williamson was the Giants' third-round pick last year out of Wake Forest and, along with Mejia, was one of my sleeper prospects for San Francisco for 2013. This was my first live look at Williamson, and I was most impressed by how quick his hands are at the plate. He starts with his back knee bent and his weight transfer isn't pretty, but he's balanced at the point of contact and gets good extension through to drive the ball to the gaps.

He might have more power if his back leg supported his weight a little longer, allowing him to use his lower half more, but even so, he might have 60-grade raw power due to his hand and wrist strength. He's an average runner, better underway than out of the box, and should cover plenty of ground in right. I like his potential to hit for average (with high contact rates) and at least 15- to 20-homer power down the road.

• Because you're going to ask, yes, Angel Villalona was there, and he is still heavy, still swings very hard and is a long shot to re-establish any kind of value for himself. (For those who are unfamiliar, Villalona is the former top prospect who was charged with murder in the Dominican Republic.) He'll get a shot in San Jose this year on what should be a loaded team with Mejia, Williamson, Kyle Crick, and Clayton Blackburn.
post #10399 of 73439
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

With all this rain pouring into Oakland, it's looking like my Opening Day will be postponed.

post #10400 of 73439
GO CUBS smokin.gif
pimp.gif chicago bears chicago blackhawks chicago bulls chicago cubs notre dame football fighting illini basketball pimp.gif
pimp.gif chicago bears chicago blackhawks chicago bulls chicago cubs notre dame football fighting illini basketball pimp.gif
post #10401 of 73439
Originally Posted by primetime21 View Post

GO CUBS smokin.gif
And the Cubs have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs

post #10402 of 73439
Originally Posted by Franco23x View Post

And the Cubs have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs


man **** YOU indifferent.gif
pimp.gif chicago bears chicago blackhawks chicago bulls chicago cubs notre dame football fighting illini basketball pimp.gif
pimp.gif chicago bears chicago blackhawks chicago bulls chicago cubs notre dame football fighting illini basketball pimp.gif
post #10403 of 73439
Originally Posted by primetime21 View Post

man **** YOU indifferent.gif
They have also been mathmetically eliminated from next years playoffs also

post #10404 of 73439
Originally Posted by Franco23x View Post

Originally Posted by primetime21 View Post

man **** YOU indifferent.gif
They have also been mathmetically eliminated from next years playoffs also


This isn't even funny. Lame
post #10405 of 73439
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

This isn't even funny. Lame
You salted bruh? Lets see how great the big bad Giants do.
post #10406 of 73439
Why would I be salty? laugh.giflaugh.gif
post #10407 of 73439
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Why would I be salty? laugh.giflaugh.gif

It's okay.
post #10408 of 73439

My team is the defending Champs. I have nothing to be salty about. GO SIT DOWN
post #10409 of 73439

im anxious for the debuts of Ryu and the eventual call-up of Puig

post #10410 of 73439

Hopefully the Dodgers do well this year.

Can't wait for the game today.






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