The Rookie of the Year race this year was as close as can be in both leagues. In the National League it could have gone four ways and in the American League I think it was totally up for grabs. Marlins’ outfielder, Chris Coglan, took the award in the NL and in the AL, it was A’s closer Andrew Bailey bringing home the award.
Let’s begin with the AL and here is how my ballot would have gone:
First place vote: Andrew Bailey
Second: Rick Porcello
Third: Elvis Andrus
When I initially thought AL ROTY, my first instinct was Porcello, who was solid for most of the season. Although by the end of the year, he only had the fourth best ERA in his starting rotation (behind Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Jarrod Washburn) and it was 3.96. His strikeout numbers weren’t that great and he had a bad June and July. He is a groundball pitcher who will have success in this league but he won’t overpower anybody. This isn’t a knock on him, but expect a Derek Lowe type career from him.
And I see better things coming for both Elvis Andrus and Andrew Bailey. The reason I have Andrus third is because, with a .267 average, I’m not sure how much love you’re going to get. However he does have a solid glove and huge upside, the kid is only 21.
But Bailey flew under the radar all throughout the season and even at the end of the season, the casual fan still probably couldn’t tell you he was tearing it up in Oakland. The A’s weren’t all too great this year and they played in the western time zone so it makes a little sense if you didn’t know who the kid was. But the kid is electric. To go along with his 1.84 ERA, he struck out 91 batters in 83.1 innings. He was 26 for 30 in save oppurtunities and he didn’t get his first two saves until May and didn’t blow any saves after June 16. Talk about finding his place. It wasn’t that long ago that another A’s closer won ROTY as well, when Huston Street did it in 2005.
For the NL, it was a tough one and it really could have gone either way but here’s what I would have put down:
First: JA Happ
Second: Chris Coghlan
Third: Tommy Hanson
It was so close that I think I may have needed some hometown bias in this one. But really, Happ lead the Phillies starters in ERA, on a staff that includes a few All Star caliber pitchers. He threw two complete game shutouts, as a rookie, in the National League. He was the most reliable Phillies starter this season and always kept the team in the game. He knows how to pitch and he disguises his pitches well and he sure has a rotation spot locked up for next season.
But Coghlan won the award, who was equally as impressive this year, he barely beat out happ by 11 votes. He really came into his own in the second half this year after being called up mid-season. He is a true leadoff hitter as he was mentioned in many sentences this season with Hall of Famers and All Stars today regarding his hit totals. He drives the ball to all fields and takes a decent approach at the plate. He’s the tablesetter that Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu needed. Congrats to him for winning the award.
Althought however, Tommy Hanson and Andrew McCutchen fell farther back than I thought they would. I thought that this race was going to be a lot closer. Tommy Hanson has some dirty stuff and if he can avoid injury will post huge strikeout numbers in his career. The Braves are sure to have one of the best rotations in the league next year and Hanson will be a big part of that. Then there’s McCutchen who is a five tool player that, at the rate the Pirates are at now, will trade him for more three decent-but-nothing-special Double-A players sometime in the next few years. Kidding of course. The Buccos know they need to hang on to this kid if they ever want to be good in the next twenty years.
I’m expecting all four of these guys to have great careers.
The AL Cy Young announcement is tomorrow, I’m expecting it to be Zack Greinke. No one else is really too close. Then the Manager of the Year announcement is on Wednesday. Jim Tracy is going to run away with the NL while Mike Scioscia and Ron Gardenhire are my co-winners in the AL.
Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels
Projected MLB Rank: 5th — AL Rank: 2nd — AL West Rank: 1st — Record: (93-69)
American League West Champions
So where’s the competition out west for the Angels? The A’s could be considered a challenge, but I think they’re too young this year. The Rangers will never win become a playoff threat until they get some pitching. Then the Mariners, well, I have them ranked last in the league.
So that provides the Angels with a bunch of wins even if their number one and two pitchers are out until about May. Those pitchers, John Lackey and Ervin Santana are two of the best pitchers in the AL. While they’re on the DL, there are five others who will need to fill the void for the time being. Jered Weaver should improve on his 4.33 ERA and 11-10 this season, but nothing drastic. Joe Saunders did a great job for the Halos last season winning 17 games. The lefty also posted a 3.41 ERA in 31 starts. Dustin Moseley will probably be the fifth starter once Lackey and Santana return. Moseley does get roughed up once in a while so there are other options. Nick Adenhart is one of those options, he’s still 22 years old and has some good stuff to do well in the majors but he hasn’t had too much success recently. Shane Loux is another option and will probably start the season in the rotation but once everyone is healthy and back–Loux will be back, in the minor leagues.
Don’t be suprised if Brian Fuentes posts over 50 saves this season. The way the Angels play baseball provides the closers with many chances for saves. Fuentes saved 30 games for Colorado last season along with a 2.73 ERA and almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Scot Shields has great stuff and should continue to be effective coming out of the bullpen as he posted a 2.70 ERA last season. Jose Arredondo may be the seventh inning guy. In 52 games last year, the 25 year old compiled a 1.62 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP. Then there’s Darren Oliver who posted a 2.88 ERA last season. Very reliable bullpen.
This lineup is great. Bringing in Bobby Abreu to replace Garrett Anderson was a nice move. The Angels are so outfield heavy now (as Gary Matthews Jr. now has no place to start). Then there’s Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero, Chone Figgins and Juan Rivera. The household names.
The players that fly under the radar out in LA will not go unnoticed this season. Secondbaseman Howie Kendrick is a hitter. If he can stay healthy, expect an average over .300 with stolen bases and great defense. Kendry Morales finally gets the firstbase job all to himself. So he will develop this year getting the chances everyday. Mike Napoli presumes to be the starting catcher. He hit 20 homeruns in 78 games last season. If he played a full season, he could even hit 35 homers and put up 75 or so RBIs. He compiled a .586 slugging percentage with an on base percentage 100 points higher than his batting average. Erick Aybar has had a nice spring training and will be at short for his defense this year, but if he starts to get hot at the plate–he will definately be the starter.
All in all, the Angels have the offense and are in the division that can afford to lose their top two starting pitchers for about a month. There’s really not much to the story here. Division champs.
Season Preview: Oakland Athletics
Projected MLB Rank: 18th — AL Rank: 7th — AL West Rank: 2nd — Record: (79-83)
The A’s improved the worst offense in the American League this offseason by bringing in outfielder Matt Holliday, shortstop Orlando Cabrera, and firstbaseman Jason Giambi. Oakland was last in the AL in runs per game (4.01), batting average (.242), doubles (270), on-base percentage (.318), slugging percentage (.369), and lead the AL in strikeouts (1226).
Here are the career numbers in some of those categories for the guys they brought in:
.319 BA — .386 OBP — .552 SLG
.286 AVG — .408 OBP — .534 SLG
.274 AVG — .322 OBP — .399 SLG
There’s no reason to believe the A’s offense will flounder as it did last season with the addition of Holliday, Giambi, and Cabrera. Also this season, Eric Chavez is healthy and should put up nice production numbers. A bright spot in the lineup last season is 24-year-old centerfielder Ryan Sweeney. In 115 games he hit .286 with .350 OBP. At worst, he will share a majority of the time in center.
Leftfielder/DH Jack Cust displayed some good power numbers for Oakland last season belting 33 homeruns and driving in 77 RBIs. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t hit for a high average at all, which seems to be the case with most of the A’s from last season. Averages under .250 last season came from Cust, Mark Ellis, Travis Buck, Bobby Crosby, Daric Barton, and others. I like the addition of Nomar Garciaparra as a righthanded bat off the bench here and Rajai Davis is a good fourth outfielder with lots of speed off the bench as well.
Pitching was a strong suit last year for this club and hopefully that continues this season if the A’s want to contend. Justin Duchscherer established himself as a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher last season with a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts. His season ended when his hip problems came back late in the season, so hopefully those problems stay away this season. Southpaw Dana Eveland is gaining more confidence at the big league level and should have a better season in 2009 at only 25 years old.
Young seems to be the trend in the rotation as the last three projected starters are no older than 25. But if we know anything about the A’s and pitchers, we know that they manufacture anyone into top pitcher. Sean Gallagher, 23, is nasty and may need a little more time to develop into the pitcher that help the A’s contend. Gio Gonzalez, 23, had a rough short stint in 2008 but has been a top pitching prospect for some time spending his minor league career with a few different clubs, his strikeout ability is above average. Look for him to develop. Dallas Braden, 25, needs to have a good start to the season if he wants to keep his spot in the rotation.
The bullpen is one of the best in the big leagues. Brad Ziegler had an unbelievable rookie campaign holding a 1.06 ERA in 59.2 innings. He only allowed seven earned runs all season with 11 saves and 9 holds. Whether it’s Ziegler, or Joey Devine closing out ballgames, the A’s will definately have one of the best set-up/closer combos in the league. Devine, in 42 games last season, had a 0.59 ERA (no I didn’t type that wrong), with over a strikeout per inning. My guess would be that Ziegler grabs this role as the season starts, but look for the A’s to switch it around to find out what works.
If the pitchers and the three offseason acquisitions can avoid injuries, definately look out for this team in the west. For my predictions though, the rotation is too young to put them in the playoffs just yet. Although I wouldn’t be suprised if they came out winning the division in 2009, I’ve learned to never doubt Billy Beane (read Moneyball).
Pudge Rodriguez has drawn interest from the Marlins. I think that it could be an awesome call for the young pitching staff. Last year Pudge hit .276 with 7 homeruns and 35 RBIs with the Tigers and the Yankees. The Marlins projected rotation is young and as follows:
Ricky Nolasco (age 26) (15-8 / 3.52 / 186)
Josh Johnson (age 25) (7-1 / 3.61 / 77) in 14 starts
Chris Volstad (age 22) (6-4 / 2.88 / 52) in 14 starts (15 games)
Anibal Sanchez (age 24) (2-5 / 5.57 / 50) in 10 starts
Andrew Miller (age 23) (6-10 / 5.87 / 89) in 20 starts (29 games)
Pudge could also coach along upcoming catchers John Baker and Mike Rabelo. They are 28
and 29, respectively. But Rabelo has barely over two years of MLB experience and Baker came up last year so I think that Pudge could definately show them some things behind the dish. It may be an investment the Marlins aren’t willing to make but I think they should do it regardless because of the help that it would serve down the line for both the pitching staff and the inexperienced catchers.
Ben Sheets also revealed today that he intends to have surgery on his elbow and would be shut down for the entire 2009 season. Not even a week ago, he had a deal practically done with the Rangers and now he won’t even be toeing the rubber in Arlington come April. Not only that, but the Brewers may be the ones that could be paying for the surgery.
Prior to this announcement, I was eager to analyze the AL West and try to pick an early winner. This division has quietly become the winningest division in baseball over the past few years and this year may have been an exciting race to watch and very well could still be. The Angels got worse, the A’s got better, and the Rangers almost had pitching. The Rangers offense is still among the best in the entire league and to get Sheets could have had the potential to put them up top the west. It’s really ashame.
So where will Sheets end up in 2010?
The New York Yankees. After CC repeats his 2004 performance, AJ Burnett has a career conflicting injury, Joba goes back to the DL, Phil Hughes goes to the minors for good, and Wang gets running again — they will have no other choice. Actually just kidding Yankees fans. Who knows where Sheets will end up? We still have a whole 2009 season to look forward to.
I’ll leave you with this..