Results tagged ‘ Melky Cabrera ’

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

Parting ways with Vernon Wells …

In honor of Paul Simon, who told you about the 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, below are Five Ways To Leave Vernon Wells. Not as catchy, I know. And it’s not as easy as slipping out the back (Jack), or making a new plan (Stan), or hopping off the bus (Gus) — OK, I’ll stop.

The best way to get it done may be a little bad-contract swapping.

Look, it’s no secret the Angels would prefer to part ways with Wells, who’s owed $42 million through the 2014 season. At this point, they can’t expect much salary relief (if any) in the process, but what they can do is create some breathing room in a clogged-up outfield and perhaps get a player back who can help them in an area of need. At the same time, they’d probably be helping Wells, sending him to a place where he can play more regularly. The best way to do it, perhaps, is to try and find a match with a team that has a similarly unfriendly contract. The Cubs did it in 2009, sending the volatile Milton Bradley to the Mariners in exchange for Carlos Silva. The Angels themselves tried to do it last offseason, with Bobby Abreu slated to return to the Yankees before A.J. Burnett evoked his limited no-trade clause.

Is there a similar partner for Wells this offseason? Below are some possibilities. Two things to keep in mind: 1. This is merely speculative — nothing more than my own opinion; 2. The Angels may consider the next two years of Wells’ contract a wash, so perhaps they’ll have little issue with paying the difference in a trade. The benefit for them is creating flexibility in the outfield — perhaps easing a return for Torii Hunter — while getting a player who may help them. If they can save a couple million dollars, too, even better.

BOS SP John Lackey ($30.5M thru ’14)

After winning 102 games, posting a 3.81 ERA and having a few memorable postseason moments in eight seasons with the Angels, Lackey put up a 4.40 ERA in his first year with the Red Sox, followed by a 6.41 ERA in 2011, followed by Tommy John surgery in October that knocked him out for all of this past season. But the soon-to-be 34-year-old progressed towards the end of the year, should have a normal offseason and is expected to be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. Would Boston go for it? They have Jacoby Ellsbury in center and there appears to be strong mutual interest in Cody Ross returning. Other than that, though, they have several uncertainties in Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish. Wells, meanwhile, may be a nice fit for the Green Monster, and to them, Lackey may represent part of that toxic clubhouse they’re still trying to fumigate.

NYY 3B Alex Rodriguez ($114M thru ’17)

It’s an easy place to go these days, since A-Rod is getting benched in the playoffs while being booed mercifully by the home crowd and the Angels could use an upgrade at third base. But A-Rod’s deal extends three years longer than Wells’, at $61 million. I’m thinking one $200 million deal (Albert Pujols) is enough in Anaheim.

CWS DH Adam Dunn ($30M thru ’14)

Bringing him on board as a lefty middle-of-the-order hitter could free up a trade for Kendrys Morales, who’s heading into his final year before free agency. But Dunn turned it around in 2012, raising his OPS from .569 to .800, and may claim AL Comeback Player of the Year honors for it (Morales is also in the running). This no longer looks like a salary dump for the White Sox.

SEA UT Chone Figgins ($8M in ’13, $9M vesting option in ’14)

This is one that seems to make sense for both sides. Figgins has said he wants out of Seattle, and he’d probably embrace a return to the place he thrived from 2002-09. The Angels could use a utility man with Maicer Izturis expected to depart via free agency (though Figgins doesn’t help them at shortstop). The Mariners, meanwhile, are in desperate need of power and Wells may be a nice fit now that they’re moving the  fences in at Safeco Field. One problem: The money. In case you hadn’t noticed, Figgins’ deal is a lot friendlier than Wells’. But, hey, if the Angels see Wells’ contract as a wash, that may not be an issue. By the way, Figgins’ 2014 option automatically vests with 600 plate appearances in 2013 — meaning it probably won’t automatically vest.

SFG SP Barry Zito ($20M in ’13, $18M club option — and $7M buyout — in ’14)

Another one that may fill needs on both sides. Zito would move into the Angels’ rotation — a rotation that could lose up to three-fifths of the 2012 makeup — and Wells would go to a team that, like the Mariners, is perpetually looking for offense. Plus, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan will hit free agency this offseason. But do the Giants really benefit from this? Though obviously no longer the same pitcher, Zito had a descent year with a 4.15 ERA in 184 1/3 innings. And in their desire to upgrade the offense, the Giants, three wins away from the World Series, may have higher aspirations than Wells. Zito, by the way, has a full no-trade clause — but he is a SoCal product.

Not mentioned: CHC LF Alfonso Soriano ($36M thru ’14); NYM LF Jason Bay ($16M in ’13, $17M club option in ’14); NYM SP Johan Santana ($25.5M in ’13, $25M club option in ’14); LAD SP Josh Beckett and 3B Hanley Ramirez ($31.5M thru ’14 each); LAD LF Carl Crawford ($102.5M thru ’17); MIA RP Heath Bell ($18M thru ’14).

Alden 

Game 118: Indians-Angels …

Looking to win their first series since July 25, the Angels will face Roberto Hernandez, the former Fausto Carmona, who was arrested for identity fraud in January and makes his first start of 2012 tonight — under a different name, and three years older than what was previously in his birth certificate.

“It’s bizarre. I mean, it’s just bizarre,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But I’m sure his stuff will be the same as Hernandez as it was with Carmona –he’s got a really good arm, heavy sinker and when he’s getting that ball over the plate, he gets a lot of groundballs.”

Told he’s older now, by definition, Scioscia quipped: “So I guess he’s lost a little bit of his stuff, then, huh?”

Indians (54-63)

Jason Kipnis, 2B
Asdrubal Cabrera, DH
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Carlos Santana, C
Michael Brantley, CF
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Brent Lillibridge, SS
Jack Hannahan, 3B
Ezequiel Cabrera, LF

Pitching: RH Roberto Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Angels (61-56)

Mike Trout, CF
Erick Aybar, SS
Torii Hunter, RF
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Vernon Wells, LF
Maicer Izturis, 2B
Chris Iannetta, C

Pitching: RH Ervin Santana (5-10, 5.82 ERA)

  • In case you hadn’t noticed, Albert Pujols isn’t in the lineup tonight. “Last night he was a little tired after the game,” Scioscia said. “I’m just trying to give his legs a recharge day, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. That’s what we anticipate.”
  • Scott Downs (left shoulder) felt good coming out of his sim game on Tuesday and is all set to do it again tomorrow. He’s not sure if it’ll be the final step, but he feels like it can be.
  • Trumbo, on three perfect games taking place in 2012 (and three additional no-hitters) now that Felix Hernandez got one: “I don’t know if there’s any explanation other than these guys have been that good. These are just flat-out quality arms. A perfect game is unbelievable, just everything that has to go into it. Not just not giving up a hit, but no walks, no errors. It helps that he has the kind of swing-and-miss pitches that he has. But credit to him, man, I know he’s flirted with it a couple of times before. It’s great that he got one, he’s a great guy, has always been pretty nice to me, and I’m happy for him.”
  • Scioscia, on Melky Cabrera‘s PED suspension: “It’s unfortunate. It’s a policy that’s there for a reason, it’s something that needs to be enforced, and I think that as well as Mellky has played, when you read something like this, it knocks the wind out of you. It’s very disappointing.”

Alden

Trumbo’s favorite Derby homer? It’s a tie for first …

KANSAS CITY — Mark Trumbo impressed a lot of people with his Home Run Derby showing on Monday night, even though he was eliminated in a tiebreaker swing-off by Jose Bautista. Asked for his favorite of the 13 through the first two rounds, Trumbo narrowed it down to two — the one that landed on the roof of the Hall of Fame building beyond the left-field bleachers (measured at a conservative 428 feet); and the smoking line drive out to straightaway center (420).

“I’d say the one on top of the roof,” Trumbo said, before backtracking — “but the one to center was impressive. I think a lot of the guys really liked the line drive.”

Trumbo’s average distance per home run — 434 feet — was the longest among the competitors, including champion Prince Fielder. He started off slow each round, then got into a little bit of a rhythm towards the middle, but felt he could’ve done better.

“I felt like I never really got into a great rhythm,” Trumbo said. “It seemed like I’d hit one, make an out, and then have to take a few pitches. Ideally, the goal is to get into an extended rhythm, kind of like Prince did, and then rattle off a better total. My biggest thing was just to have fun with it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I wanted to get one. That was the advice — don’t get a goose egg.”

Trumbo’s favorite moment?

“[David Ortiz] pulled me aside before I left yesterday and that was really cool,” he said. “He was telling me it took him three or four times of doing it to really feel like he — not had it down, but had a chance. Things move very, very quickly when you’re out there. You can’t really simulate that.”

But C.J. Wilson, at least, can capture it.

As usual, Wilson was out there with his camera and estimated taking roughly 800 photos of the Derby participants. He’ll look over them when he has time in the next few days and print them out for Trumbo to keep.

“I had my brand-new camera out there, taking some cool images that I’ll process while we’re on the road in the next couple days and see if I can come up with some winners,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun. Jered [Weaver] and Mike [Trout] and I were out there just trying to hype him up and keep him motivated and have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure out there, when you’re the only guy batting for a couple minutes at a time in front of the fans.”

Trumbo’s roommate also TiVo’d it. But many of those in attendance won’t need reminders of the show Trumbo put on. Many were impressed.

“I know my Twitter following went way up,” Trumbo said with a smile.

“Any time I’m in something, I want to win. But I’m going to take away some really cool memories from it.”

Some other pre-All Star Game notes

  • Asked about their friendship in a pregame presser, Trout joked of Bryce Harper: “We don’t like each other.” Bryce: “It’s like Bird and Magic. He’s Magic, I’m Bird.”
  • Maybe more LeBron and Wade? “I hope I play with [Trout] one day,” Harper said. “I think him playing center field, me playing right field, as a one-two punch, I think that’d be fun.”
  • Trout was asked who wins in a footrace between him and Peter Bourjos. His response: “I think Peter’s got me around the bases in an inside-the-parker, but home to first, we were talking about it the other day, I think I have him by a couple of steps.”
  • Weaver was told he’ll pitch the fifth inning tonight. As for how it affects him for the second half? It’s just like a normal bullpen session.
  • Trout and Trumbo are not really sure when they’ll get in. “I have all my gloves, as usual,” Trumbo said. C.J., of course, is sitting out due to a blister he doesn’t expect to impact his second half.
  • Weaver on not being named the starter for the All-Star Game a second straight year, despite leading the Majors with a 1.96 ERA: “I told you guys, whatever happens, I’m just excited to be here, be a part of it. Obviously it would’ve been cool to start back-to-back years, but I’m just excited to be able to get out there and throw an inning and just be part of this whole experience. It’s fun. It’s great to hang out with all these guys and just see who they are as a person instead of just battling against him.”
  • One guy Weaver was really excited to get to know a little better here: Adam Dunn. “He’s a funny character, man.”

Some Angels All-Star Game links …

Some intriguing All-Star Game stories …

The lineups …

NL

Carlos Gonzalez, DH (COL)
Melky Cabrera, CF (SFG)
Ryan Braun, LF (MIL)
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)
Carlos Beltran, RF (StL)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Dan Uggla, 2B (ATL)
Rafael Furcal, SS (StL)

SP: RH Matt Cain (SFG)

AL

Derek Jeter, SS (NYY)
Cano, 2B (NYY)
Josh Hamilton, LF (TEX)
Bautista, RF (TOR)
Fielder, 1B (DET)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (TEX)
MikOrtiz, DH (BOS)
Mike Napoli, C (TEX)
Curtis Granderson, CF (NYY)

SP: RH Justin Verlander (DET)

Alden

Game 70: Giants-Angels …

Jered Weaver is activated off the DL today, looking to pick up right where he left off and give the Angels eight series wins over their last nine …

Giants (38-31)

Gregor Blanco, DH
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Melky Cabrera, LF
Buster Posey, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Brandon Belt, 1B
Nate Schierholtz, RF
Brandon Crawford, SS

Pitching: RH Ryan Vogelsong (6-2, 2.29 ERA)

Angels (37-32)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Weaver (6-1, 2.61 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jerome Williams was placed on the DL on Wednesday, with the breathing problems that caused him to go to the hospital after his Monday night start. With that, the Angels opened a spot on the roster for Weaver. Williams passed out in the Angels clubhouse after pitching against the Giants, likely due to an asthma attack. He’ll take it easy for now, and there’s no timeline for his return. More on the site soon.
  • With Williams on the DL, Ervin Santana will start Saturday against the Dodgers and the young Garrett Richards will go Sunday. Dan Haren is the Friday starter.
  • The Blue Jays claimed reliever David Pauley off waivers from the Angels.
  • Scioscia was asked about the recent pine tar scandal between the Rays and Nationals. Scoiscia didn’t really have a problem with Davey Johnson bringing it up — which his former coach, Joe Maddon, took exception to — but said using pine tar is hardly an advantage for a pitcher. “Pine tar’s an accepted practice in baseball. And I don’t think hitters have much of an issue with it, especially when it’s cold or guys are really sweaty or it’s wet. It doesn’t change the flight of the ball, it’s in the rules, and obviously you have to abide by what’s in the rules. It’s like getting pulled over for going 66 mph in a 65 mph zone.”

Angels.com links from Tuesday …

Some AL West links …

And the Miami Heat are ONE WIN AWAY from championship glory.

Alden

Game 69: Giants-Angels …

A matchup of southpaws tonight, with Barry Zito going up against C.J. Wilson. In tune with that, the Angels are giving Kendrys Morales the day off, putting Mark Trumbo in at DH and giving Peter Bourjos a rare start …

Giants (38-30)

Gregor Blanco, RF
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Melky Cabrera, LF
Buster Posey, DH
Angel Pagan, CF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Brandon Belt, 1B
Hector Sanchez, C
Joaquin Arias, SS

Pitching: LH Zito (5-4, 3.61 ERA)

Angels (36-32)

Mike Trout, LF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Mark Trumbo, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Peter Bourjos, CF
John Hester, C

Pitching: LH Wilson (7-4, 2.30 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jerome Williams is resting comfortably at UC Irvine Medical Center and is feeling better. Mike Scioscia visited with him in the hospital last night, saying: “He felt much better once everything had calmed down a little bit. He continues to feel better today, but we have to evaluate exactly what his situation is and await direction from our medical department.”
  • Scioscia still doesn’t know — or simply remained coy about — what the corresponding roster move will be when Jered Weaver is activated off the DL for his Wednesday start. My hunch on two options: Williams going on the DL, buying them a little time; Andrew Romine getting optioned, again buying them some time.
  • Ervin Santana hasn’t been told whether he’s starting Saturday.
  • Since May 27, Trumbo is tied for the Major League lead with 10 homers and leads with 23 RBIs. Asked if Trumbo could be his everyday cleanup hitter, including against lefties, Scioscia said: “As of right now, against left-handed pitching, you’re going to see Mark hitting in the cleanup spot. For our team to really get to where we need, Kendrys really needs to be a big part of it. There’s no plans right now to move him out of the cleanup spot against lefties.”

Some Angels.com links …

Some AL West links …

Two more wins, and LeBron James can silence the critics.

Alden

Game 68: Giants-Angels …

Very intriguing pitching matchup today, as the Angels look to make it three straight and put themselves to win their fourth straight series. In one corner, you have Matt Cain, fresh off hurling a perfect game against the Astros. In the other, you have Jerome Williams, whose trade from the Giants helped pave the way for Cain’s callup …

Giants (37-30)

Gregor Blanco, RF
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Melky Cabrera, LF
Buster Posey, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Pablo Sandoval, DH
Brandon Belt, 1B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Joaquin Arias, 3B

Pitching: RH Cain (8-2, 2.18 ERA)

Angels (36-31)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Maicer Izturis, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Williams (6-4, 4.20 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jered Weaver (lower back) felt fine one day after a Sunday bullpen session and will get the ball on Wednesday, for the series finale against the D-backs in what will be his first start since May 28. Mike Scioscia said he’ll be on an 80-90 pitch limit. More on Angels.com soon.
  • Wilson (concussion) was activated off the disabled list, with the young Hank Conger being optioned. The Angels also called up infielder Andrew Romine and once again designated reliever David Pauley for assignment, giving them 12 pitchers and 13 position players once again.
  • Chris Iannetta (right wrist surgery) felt tightness in his forearm, which delayed his rehab assignment, but played catch again on Monday and continues to hit. Still, Scioscia said a rehab assignment is not imminent at this time.
  • Scott Downs (side) threw a bullpen session on Sunday and feels ready to go today.
  • The Angels enter tonight on a 21-inning scoreless stretch, allowing five hits over their last two games.
  • This, in case you don’t already know, marks the first time the Giants visit Angel Stadium since the 2002 World Series. It’s their first regular-season stop since 2000.
  • Scioscia, on the decision to option Conger: “It’s a tough decision, because I think Hank in some ways is ready for the challenge. And then in some other ways, there’s no doubt that he needs to work on some things for consistency that, for his long-term development, is going to be important to him. I think the bottom line is, Hank’s upside is very important to us in the organization, and right now, he needs to be playing every day to reach that upside. And I think at some point, he’ll be better prepared for the opportunity to come up here, and not only contribute, but the opportunity to come up here and win a job and get out there and catch every day.”

Some Angels links from Father’s Day …

Some AL West links …

And a big key to the Heat’s success has been Dwyane Wade learning to defer to LeBron James.

Alden

6 Divisions in 6 Days: NL East

With this being the final week of Spring Training (crazy, right?), I figured it’d be justified to take a look at all 30 clubs and examine where they stand, what they need and where it looks like they’ll finish heading into the 2010 season. So, leading up to Opening Night between the Red Sox and Yankees, I’ll touch on one of the six divisions each day Monday-Saturday. Today, Day 1, we look at the National League East …

Phillies: I see no weaknesses in the back-to-back NL champions. They have arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the top of the rotation, a starting lineup that will scare the bejesus out of you, a great defensive group, options at the back end of their bullpen and incredible depth. Cole Hamels, of course, is the key. Since the Phillies didn’t keep Cliff Lee in the Roy Halladay deal (Phillies fans will debate that for decades), Hamels is the No. 2 starter again despite a rough year in 2009. If Hamels’ comeback is the most important, then that of closer Brad Lidge is 1A. Lidge and lefty J.C. Romero likely won’t be ready for the start of the season, but they’ll join the club soon thereafter. Still, the Phils signed Danys Baez, who also has experience closing out games, and Ryan Madson is there, too, of course. Offensively, uh, yeah, they’re good. I love the addition of Placido Polanco, who is a great No. 2 hitter and allows Shane Victorino to slide down in the order. J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton and possibly Jamie Moyer round out the rotation, which is good enough — at least. Their bench is solid with the addition of Juan Castro and Ross Gload. Defensively, Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Victorino and Jayson Werth are some of the best in the business at their respective positions. So, again, no weaknesses, really. 

1618_NpAdvHover.jpg
Marlins: Ask anybody around the league, and they’ll tell you the Marlins will be a pain in the neck this year — just like they were in 2008, and just like they were in 2009. The Marlins’ brass, however, wants more. They wanted a playoff team with a $30 million payroll, as evidenced by Fredi Gonzalez being put on the hot seat early this offseason despite finishing above .500 and being in contention most of the way last year. Pretty much the same core group is back, with Josh Johnson — fresh off signing a four-year extension — at the top of the rotation and Hanley Ramirez in the middle of the lineup. That young rotation that was the talk of baseball a couple of years ago isn’t looking so good right now, though. While Johnson and Ricky Nolasco give the Marlins a nice one-two punch, there are questions in the other three spots. And their closer, Leo Nunez, has only been one for half a season. The rest of the bullpen is a bit shaky and inexperienced, too. Offensively, they’ll have reigning NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan for a full season. But they need Cameron Maybin to produce as the No. 2 hitter, and I don’t think they have a big enough bat to protect Ramirez in the middle of the order (Jorge Cantu is the guy right now). With a new stadium, and Johnson and Ramirez locked up long-term, the future looks good for the Marlins. 2010? I think they’ll be in it in September, but it’ll be the same story as the last couple of years. This division is too good to win with that payroll. 

Braves: There may be no better starting rotation than the Braves’, and there may be no feel-good story better than the one playing out in Atlanta. Bobby Cox‘s last season. Jason Heyward‘s first. Veteran players making the Braves look legit for the first time in a while. Meant to be? Perhaps. Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Kenshin Kawakami and Jair Jurrjens is flat-out scary. And I like their bullpen. Here’s my problem: The Braves will rely on a cleanup hitter (Troy Glaus) and a closer (Billy Wagner) coming off major surgeries. But they’re deep in the ‘pen, and the offense is pretty good, with Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Heyward (what a phenomenal player he is) and Yunel Escobar. Oh, and Wagner and Glaus have each looked good this spring. I have questions about Nate McLouth as the leadoff hiter (and Melky Cabrera seemingly being the No. 2 option), and their infield defense is shaky with Jones at third, Glaus at first, McCann behind the plate and Martin Prado at second base. But the more I see this team, the more I like it. 

Mets: Meet the Mess! Once again, the Amazin’s have a nice-looking squad on paper, but who knows what you’ll get out of them? They already know Carlos Beltran won’t start the season healthy, nor will expected setup man Kelvim Escobar, and Jose Reyes probably won’t, either. But they still have Johan Santana at the top of their rotation, they still have Jason Bay in the middle of their order, and neither Beltran nor Reyes are expected to miss much time. The Mets will of course be a much better offensive club than last year’s rag-tag group, but I’d worry about their rotation. After Santana, there are four solid question marks in Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Jon Niese. Also, who will be the bridge to Francisco Rodriguez? There’s a flame-throwing prospect by the name of Jenrry Mejia who has drawn comparisons to Doc Gooden. He won’t start the season as the eighth-inning man, but that may be his role eventually. Once again, the Mets have the potential to be great and catastrophic, all at the same time. One thing that’s certain: It should be interesting. 

Nationals: Mike
Rizzo
has done a pretty descent job in his short time as the Nats’ general manager. He acquired pitching help in Jason Marquis (though he’s not an ace by any stretch), got a solid catcher who can mentor Jesus Flores in Ivan Rodriguez (I don’t know about giving him two years and $6 million, however), went hard after Orlando Hudson (but he had to settle for Adam Kennedy at second base), came to terms with top pitching prospects Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, and he made the bold — and surprising — move of releasing Elijah Dukes, getting rid of a supreme talent but a perceived clubhouse cancer. Think again, though, if you think the Nats can go from 103 losses to playoff contention in one season. They’re at least another year away. I really like their lineup, with Nyjer Morgan at the top, and Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and a healthy Josh Willingham in the middle. And I like rookie Ian Desmond‘s defense at shortstop. But that starting rotation, led by John Lannan, is still shaky at best. And despite adding guys like Brian Bruney and Matt Capps, there’s no legit closer, and the bullpen should struggle as a unit. But expect progress. 
NL East champion: Phillies
NL Wild Card: Braves
– Alden Gonzalez

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