Friday, October 21, 2011

Huskies @ Stanford a writers bleeding thoughts

It's been a long long time since I've done anything on this blog, but I have some burning thoughts inside of me from a fans perspective. Thing's I can't put into my stories for Rivals and have no other place to lets it out...

I think the Huskies can win this football game. I've said it a few times to friends and family, but never on record as a non-biased writer. So why the two thoughts? Well because in reality, everything tells me that Stanford is the better team and should win the game, so as a writer I'm following that and picking the Cardinal. But as a bleeder of purple and gold, I'm picking the Huskies...Win-Win for me? I guess so, but that's just the way it goes.

Why do I think the Huskies win? Well because the Husky offense is just too good to be stopped. They're going to put up points in the game, that means they'll be in the game no matter what Stanford does on offense. If the Huskies score 40 points, which I think could happen, they will at the very least be right with the Cardinal.

But the Huskies come in knowing this is the biggest game the program has seen in probably 10 years. You could argue the Holiday Bowl or one of the late games last season, but NO, a win over Stanford put them into contention for the Rose Bowl and would show the nation that the Huskies are back. The players know that, Sark knows that, and that fire should give them an edge that Stanford can't match. Even at home in Stanford Stadium, it's not exactly the most amazing atmosphere for college football, I don't think the Cardinal are all that fired up for this one.

Go ahead and tell me that the Huskies defense isn't good enough to contain Andrew Luck, I'll agree, I think he will have a big game. But if the Huskies win the turnover battle and special teams battle, which seems very possible, how can they lose the game? With Price under center and Polk pounding it as well, all the offense needs is for the other two aspects of the game to give a little bit of help, and it will be all there for the taking.

My last reason for thinking the Huskies win is that I am a firm believer in what Sark is capable of. Yes he's made some mistakes here and there, but he has a brilliant offensive mind that will keep the Huskies rolling. I expect a game plan that is effective and high powered and puts up a lot of points. He is ready for this one and so are the Huskies.

As a non-biased writer I picked Stanford 45-38, But what I REALLY think will happen, is the Huskies win 42-34.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jeff Lindquist to Washington? The day after Jake Locker is taken number 8

Jake Worthen of is reporting that Jeff Lindquist, the Mercer Island quarterback is headed to Washington to play for Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies. He had said he was going to announce on May first, but apparently he decided early and his choice is Washington. It is a little bit curious that he chose the day after Jake Locker was taken in the top 10 of the NFL draft.

He must like what Sarkisian was able to do to the draft stock of Locker and wants the same for himself. The 4 star QB was deciding between Washington and Stanford, but Washington ended up winning out.

This will make for an interesting next few years as the Huskies are in the middle of a QB battle between Nick Montana and Keith Price, but chances are that Lindquist will come in and compete for playing time right away.

This is huge for the Huskies and leaves the Cardinal looking elsewhere for the heir to Andrew Luck. For Washington, they may have found the future at QB, while he is a little late to step right in for Locker, he looks like he will be able to fill the shoes just fine.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jake Locker...Overrated or Over-criticized? Tennessee Titans seem to think Over-Criticized

The Titans just made their pick and they go with Jake Locker number 8 overall in a surprise early in the draft. I had him going number 12 to the Vikings, but I think the situation he is going into could be perfect for him. He has some work to do, but apparently his choice to come back didn't cost him so much as everyone has expected.

Jake Locker joined the Huskies about 5 years ago and the talk was that he was going to lead the program back to the promise land...The Rose Bowl. Everyone thought that he was the second coming, giving him the nick name of the Montlake Messiah as well as Jake Jesus Locker...Check out his wikipedia page, in the first sentence about his college life it says he was dubbed the savior of the program. Jake himself would be the last person to talk about himself in this sense, he is a humble hard-working guy who appears to only want to improve. That being said he was on several awful Huskies teams where he got little to no help. His first 2 years he spent running for his life behind a terrible offensive line. His second two years he had an improved line but turned into a pro-style quarterback under Steve Sarkesian. After his Junior year the entire country thought he was going pro, and he would be a top pick in the draft. But he decided to stay one more year. In his final year he led the Huskies to a 7-6 record..including their first bowl games in years. Something he should be should be proud of...but that doesn't mean he is going to turn into a top flight pro QB, or even close to that...

As I mentioned, he was slotted to be a top pick in the draft had he declared last year...or maybe he wasn't going to be a top pick, or even a first round pick...The reason that the nation thought he would be going that high in the draft was because ESPN, especially Todd McShay and Mel Kiper who said he was going to go that high...I am not going to pick a fight with McShay or Kiper at all, I am sure he did think that Locker would be the top pick in the draft, but I have heard from a reliable source that it wasn't the case. My source explained to me that before underclassmen declare, organizations go through the prospects and say when they would likely draft a player. Locker was not going to be picked in the first round by any team in football according to my source...Yes things change with the combine and workouts, but I have a feeling that the owners telling Locker he wasn't such a high pick led him to go back to Washington. Lockers wouldn't be the only recent QB overrated by ESPN...A similar situation happened with Jimmy Claussen, who Kiper said was a top 5 pick, but he fell deep into the second round of the draft...That wouldn't happen if the NFL viewed him as a top 5 player.

Back to Locker though...He has all of the intangibles that coaches drool over, especially Josh McDaniels (Look where that got him). But the only measurable skills Locker has helping him at the NFL level is his speed. He is a fast and powerful runner, but how many QB's run in the NFL? The only one who does it consistently is Michael Vick, who is just a freakish athlete and is much faster than Locker. Yes some others will scramble around and run occasionally, but if a QB's strength is their running prowess, they likely won't make it in the league. Locker has a pretty strong arm as well, but overthrowing receivers by 10 yards on a consistent basis isn't going to get him the starting job. Locker has shown time and time again he lacks any accuracy on both his long throws and his short throws...That is a death sentence in the NFL.

The majority of NFL routes are timing routes where the QB has to get the ball out at the right moment, PLUS it has to be in the right spot. Neither of those things are in Lockers repertoire, meaning he can't make the majority of the throws needed in the NFL. Think about a 10 yard out route, or a 10 yard outside hitch. Locker drops back looking one way trying to look off the secondary (Something I will get into)...then turns back and throws the ball to his receiver, the likelihood things go wrong are HUGE...yes that is the case for all QB's, but the majority of NFL quarterbacks are accurate passers which highly lowers the chances of something going wrong. When a QB's weakness is accuracy it basically will doom him, because NFL defensive backs are too good not to capitalize on poor throws. Accuracy isn't something that can be taught either. It can be improved yes, but Locker isn't even close to where he will need to be.

Locker made poor decisions throughout his career as a Husky yet some think he will be able to be smart enough to still use the tools he has in order to succeed, seems illogical to me. He has poor footwork, poor ability to look off defenders and he is very incapable of recognizing when to tuck and run and when to pass. He likes to lock onto his receiver, which he could get away with at the college level, but that won't work when someone like Ed Reed is watching and waiting to intercept any pass thrown...Even think back to the first game against Nebraska, those quality DB's were able to jump all over his throws. Locker also wouldn't tuck and run the ball even when he had enough room to get a first down or a touch down...sometimes he ran and it was productive, but often times he tried to pass when he had a running lane and no one to throw to.

Oddly though ESPN seems to think that he is an accurate passer and his only true negatives are his durability and decision making. While I agree those are down-sides, after watching 4 years of Locker he is not an accurate passer.

For UW it seemed as if Locker was throwing fade routes or dumps for the majority of his senior season. If Locker was such a good QB I would expect them to utilize him rather than expect their receivers to go make plays. Fade routes are basically jump balls where all the QB has to do is make a decent throw and let his guy go to work. Any QB should be able to make those throws, and Locker even struggled with those, often times throwing them too far outside and out of bounds.

Locker's completion percentage his senior year was 55.4 percent...that is an awful number...even if you give him the benefit of the doubt that he had no time to throw or no one to throw to, he was unable to make the majority of the throws during the season. Heck look at his game against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, he had no completions in the first half! He finished the game 5 of 16! Yes they won the game, but that was on the defense and Chris Polk, not Locker. A guy who is supposed to be a first round pick at QB should be the guy a team can lean on in big games, Locker was not that guy and will never be that guy.

I thank Locker for helping Washington get some national attention, but he never really won anything. His record as a QB was 15-25 for Washington. He had 4 game winning drives led, but also had several stinkers of games. That is not what I could call a savior of a program nor a top draft prospect ... I hope him the best in the NFL..Go prove me wrong Jake! I even think a team will take a shot on him in round one of the draft...but I believe that he will either have to change positions to avoid becoming a total bust in the NFL.

NFL Mock Draft, Will Locker be drafted in round one?

With time ticking down until the first pick will come in I have decided it's time for me to throw in my first round mock draft. It's a little late coming, but what better time to get the picks in than right before, at least it won't be late like the Minnesota Vikings in 2003. So without further adieu, here is my mock draft:

1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB Auburn
He's number one everywhere, but I just don't see how the Panthers could pass him up. Yeah they have Jimmy Claussen but Newton is a winner and is too much of a fan favorite to pass up. I don't see him as a star in the pros, but I think he is decent, expect him to be something on the level of David Garrard...maybe that comparison is a little easy seeing as they are both African-American Qb's?

2. Denver Broncos: Von Miller, LB Texas A&M
The Broncos have to go with the best available pick right here. Miller isn't the top player in the draft, Patrick Peterson is, but Denver has one of the best corners in the game in Champ Bailey. Miller adds a dynamic pass rushing ability to a team that had just 23 sacks total last season. He could play the Sam linebacker or Defensive end which gives him even more value at the next level.

3. Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
He's big and strong and a safe pick at number three. The Bills are a long way away from being a contender, but they can start by using this pick to add someone to the middle of their 3-4 defensive scheme. Dareus is a guy who can do it all, stop the run, pressure the passer and even move to the defensive end spot if needed.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
He has the highest upside of any player in the draft and the Bengals need someone to help them make plays. They have no QB so drafting a receiver doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me at this spot. Peterson fits in with the Bengals defense as he's big and strong, but also might be the fastest player in the draft after running a 4.3 40 at the combine.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri
The threat of a repeat of Matt Leinert might scare the Cardinals away from making this pick, but they are in dire need of someone to run their offense. They have a strong receiving corp, good young running backs, and a good offensive line, but no one to play QB. They could go defense and wait on a QB, but I think Gabbert is the pick at number 5.

6. Cleveland Browns: Julio Jones, WR Auburn
I think that A.J. Green is the better receiver of the two, but the Browns had a big guy names Braylon Edwards who failed them in the past. They make the move and go with Jones and grab a speedy guy who makes an immediate impact in the passing game and the return game. He has Monster upside written all over him.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Fairley, DT Auburn
After hoping Gabbert would fall to them the 49ers are going to have to go with the top player on defense and that is Fairley. He has some issues, but the whole world watched him go out and basically win a national championship for the Crimson Tide. He will help an already strong defense and the 49ers will have to wait on finding a QB.

8. Tennessee Titans: A.J. Green, WR Georgia
The Titans have Chris Johnson on offense, but when he's been bottled up they haven't had anywhere else to turn to. They get a gift with Green slipping all the way to 8. He is the real deal and with the problems surrounding Randy Moss, Green will fill in and be a playmaker for a team that needs someone who can work outside.

9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT USC
The Cowboys have all of the playmakers they need, but it's the two lines they can't seem to figure out. Jerry Jones makes the smart call and decides it isn't fantasy football anymore and goes with the unsexy pick of Smith.

10. Washington Redskins: Da'Quan Bowers, DE Clemson
The Redskins have had troubles with Albert Haynseworth, but if he can get his act together the defensive line for the Skins would be a dominant part of their team with Bowers rushing around the edge. He has some injury questions, but he could be a star if he stays healthy.

11. Houston Texans: Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska
One of the worst secondaries in the league last year has to do something about it. They would like to move up and get Peterson, but if that doesn't work out they have to address the need right here and get the second best Corner in the draft.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Jake Locker, QB Washington
I talked a lot about Locker here, but the more I think and watch, he has too much upside to turn down. He has the intangibles and the speed that the Vikings will have trouble passing over him. They could be one player like Locker away from being a Super Bowl winner in a few years. He goes from Purple to Purple, I am not saying he will be an All-Pro, but he won't be slipping as some analyst may think.

13. Detroit Lions: Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College
The Lions would have loved for Smith to fall to them, but with him not there they still need to make a move and get help along the offensive line. If either Amukamara or Smith are available at this spot the Lions take them, but I don't expect that so they will settle for the number 2 O-lineman on the board.

14. St. Louis Rams: Corey Liuget, DT Illinois
The Rams are a much improved team on offense and this pick begins their work on the defensive side of the ball. Liuget is a player who plays with a high motor and is always after the football. He would be a beast in the middle and could be the key to the Rams winning the NFC West.

15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, OG/C Florida
He would join a line that is solid on the outside, but the interior has had some holes recently. The Dolphins are a team that has been much better in recent years than they were about 5 years ago and thats because they build form the core. This continues on that line of thinking and they will try to win games in the trenches.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB UNC
After missing 2010 his draft stock takes a hit, but he will be a good pass rusher with his blend of size and speed. The Jaguars get a gift here because Quinn has top 10 talent, but he slips to them at 16.

17. New England Patriots: Cameron Jordan, DE California
Bill Belichick wants his team to be smart and thats what Jordan would bring to the table alongside his great frame and athleticism. He will fit in with their 3-4 scheme on the end and should be productive on one of the better defenses in the league.

18. San Diego Chargers: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Temple
He's a perfect fit in the middle of the line for the 3-4 scheme of the Chargers. He came out early and was able to rise this spring into the first round. He has top 10 talent and had he waited a year to come out would have been fighting for a spot in the top 5.

19. New York Giants: Aldon Smith, DE/OLB Missouri
He still has some development to do, which makes him the perfect fit with the Giants. They are solid on the defensive line and have good ends, but they are aging. Smith will fit in as an End in their 3-4 scheme and could become a major pass rusher with his major athleticism and speed.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue
He is a tough guy to project position wise, but has a knack for getting to the football and getting tackles for a loss. Whether he ends up at defensive end or OLB, he will make plays at the next level. The Bucs are in need of someone like Kerrigan to rush the passer on the outside and the value here is very strong.

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Nate Solder, OT Colorado
The Chiefs are all about running the football and they already have one of the best offensive lines in football. They have a hole at right tackle which is where Solder will come in and play right away. His addition will help an already dominant running game. 

22. Indianapolis Colts: Gabe Carimi, OT Wisconsin
Someone has to protect the most valuable player in all of football right? That's gotta be the primary focus of the Colts on offense. A possible addition of Mark Ingram could happen, but their offensive line is important if they want their offense to be one of the best in the league. Manning with time is unstoppable.

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
Smith is rated as the number two guy by a lot of teams, ahead of Prince. He had some questions about character issues, which have kind of gone away, but where else should he accepted than the team that welcomed Michael Vick into town?

24. New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
There are some questions about his speed, but with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, Ingram could come in and be a perfect fit for a three headed running attack. The Saints were down badly in the playoffs with injuries at runningback and Ingram seems like a good fit for a team with an already dynamic offense.

25. Seattle Seahawks: Andy Dalton, QB TCU
Don't get locked into this pick, I think the Seahawks will do whatever they can to move away from this spot. They will move back and pick up several picks. If they take Dalton he will fit in nicely, he has some mobility, not a lot, but he appears to be almost NFL ready, give him one year behind Matt Hasslebeck and he should be ready to go.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Brooks Reed, DE/OLB Arizona
The Ravens are getting older on the defensive side of the ball, adding Reed would give them flexibility and an athletic playmaker along their front 7. He would be able to step in right away and help a defense that is strong, but has been less dynamic in recent years.

27. Atlanta Falcons: Danny Watkins, OG Baylor
The Falcons are pretty well set around their team, they could use some help along their defensive front 7, but their O-Line needs to be their bread and butter. Watkins is ready to play right away and will help the Falcons in the running game as well as give Matt Ryan time to throw in the pocket.

28. New England Patriots: Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA
The Patriots are the only team with 2 picks in round one and they go defense twice. This pick as all about upside. Ayers was a top 5 pick early after the season ended, but slipped. Under the strong coaching in New England he could flourish into one of the better linebackers in the league.

29. Chicago Bears: Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa
He fits more as a 4-3 defensive end, but I see the Bears taking him and using him in their 3-4 scheme on the end. He is a big strong kid with the ability to stop the run, but put some pressure on the QB. The Bears need help on the interior of their defensive line and he could move there, but his size alone will be important for the Bears defense.

30. New York Jets: J.J. Watt, DE Wisconsin 
New York is a great fit for Watt who is a big strong end, but he has elite pass rushing ability. They get one of the biggest D-End prospects from the draft and fill a need at the same time. The value with this pick is huge for them.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Derek Sherrod, OR Mississippi State
He is not the typical lineman the Steelers would go after, but they need to get an offensive tackle at this spot. He is the best available and could develop in time. He has good technique and is in the right place at the right time.

32. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State
They have a need on the outside of their defensive line and Heyward is the best pick there at this point. If someone else slips to this spot, like Watt they could go after him. The Packers could also go after Ayers if he is available, this pick is difficult because a lot happens in one round. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bandwagon fans...maybe they're on to something? Cough Cough Boston Red Sox fans...

Up until about a year ago I was the first person to hate on bandwagon fans. My general thinking was that you should support your team no matter what happens, if they stink it shouldn't matter, don't be a fan just because your team is winning...But I was listening to the radio a while back and heard something interesting that I decided I couldn't really disagree with...

The guy on the radio explained that bandwagon fans are actually the smartest type of fan there is...yes you read that right, they are GOOD fans...But how could that be? Isn't loyalty something important in sports? You love your team through thick and thin because they are yours. This guys argument took the loyalty idea and showed why you shouldn't support losing the Seattle Mainers for example. The idea is that organizations have no need to try to win if their fan base is going to stay loyal, go to games and buy merchandise. The owners and GMs are trying to make money, and if winning games helps then they will do that, but why worry about winning when you can make the same money, or more by being mediocre?

The other reason being over-faithful is a poor decision is that it allows the team to remain at the status quo. Why would they make changes when they are still loved? Think of it like this...You're married or dating someone and she loves you even though all you do is sit on the couch and watch TV. You don't have to put any work in, everything is great. Why would you ever want to change things?

Thats how it works with over-loyal fans. Bandwagon fans are more like this...You're in the relationship, everything is great and both people are working together and love is all around. But one day you think you can stop doing any work, you want to just sit on the couch and relax all day. But she is not going to let that happen, she gives you the choice, either improve or she's out. You need her so you will obviously make the changes needed for her. 

In both cases you are the GM and she is the what would you want? The GM who has no reason to improve or the one who has to either make changes or they're done?...I want the GM to change if he's a loser.

To be clear I am not saying that championship chasers are smart fans...those people are just losers at life. I used to be one of those though..When I was young I was a Chicago Bulls fan while they won all of their titles, then when Jordan left I became a Houston Rockets fan as they won a championship. Same thing happened with the Atlanta Braves in baseball and the Tennessee Titans in the NFL...But I was young and didn't know any better and eventually learned. 

There isn't much of a feedback area for fans who want to show their displeasure with a team, the only thing I can think of is with signs at the game, but then you've bought a ticket which gives more money to the money hungry GM. So why not ignore the team? Don't go to games, don't buy their products, just flat out don't support them. Eventually they will have to make a change in what they are doing or they will fall apart. Loyal fans fund their teams, but why would you pay for a failing product? Would you go to a movie you knew was going to be bad? NOPE, but you go to games and complain afterwards right?

I doubt many bandwagon fans are thinking about this when they jump on the bandwagon of a winning team...But it doesn't mean it is such a bad thing. My belief is that everyone has their favorite teams, mine are the M's, Hawks and Huskies...all teams who have had their ups and their downs...Especially the M's which has led me to not caring much about them. Are they still my favorite baseball team? Yes of course, and I will follow them, but I will not be buying any M's hats or shirts any time soon, and I won't be going to many games until they improve their organization. Same goes for the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Huskies...I am going to root for them in every single game, when they win I'll be the first to say something good about the win, but it doesn't mean I have to show my support for them every day. 

When those teams are the talk of the town, I will be leading the charge there too, call me a bandwagon fan if you want to, but I will respond by calling you a ignorant fan of mediocrity.

The only fans I won't give this credit to are Boston Red Sox fans. Half of them never cared about baseball until the Sox won thw world series. The other half have legit reason's though to jump aboard the bandwagon, those who have lived in Boston forever and had their dreams crushed year in and year out.

Champion chacers are pansies, but bandwagon fans are geniuses...End of story.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Baseball America Top 100 prospects team by team breakdown

Baseball America released their annual rankings for prospects 2 weeks ago here. In order to better compare teams I have gone through and listed the prospects by team along with their position and overall ranking. I take no credit for creating the rankings, just the division into teams alphabetically by city.

Team with top future: The Kansas City Royals are by far and away the team with the best looking prospects. They have the most players in the top 100, which includes 3 in the top 10, and 5 in the top 20. Also they expect 8/9 of these players to reach the majors in the next two years.
2nd place: Tampa Bay Rays: They have 7 in the top 100, many near the top 20.

Team without hope: The Milwaukee Brewers are the only team with zero players in the top 100. They have a solid young core of players at the Major League level, but if they can't win with what they have up there, it would be a very long rebuilding process.
2nd place: Florida Marlins, even though they have the young Michael Stanton already up, their only top prospect is outside of the top 100.

Major League Team # of pitchers/#of position players
Rank. Player, position. Age/Estimated arrival at Major League level

Arizona Diamondbacks 2/1
33. Jarrod Parker, rhp, 22/2012
82. Tyler Skaggs, lhp, 19/2013
99. Matt Davidson, 3b, 20/2013
Atlanta Braves 5/1
5. Julio Teheran, rhp, 19/2012
17. Freddie Freeman, 1b, 21/2011
35. Randall Delgado, rhp, 21/2012
37. Mike Minor, lhp, 23/2011
86. Craig Kimbrel, rhp, 22/2011
93. Arodys Vizcaino, rhp, 20/2013
Baltimore Orioles 1/1
14. Manny Machado, ss, 18/2013
28. Zach Britton, lhp, 23/2011
Boston Red Sox 2/1
52. Jose Iglesias, ss, 21/2012
67. Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, 21/2013
97. Drake Britton, lhp, 21/2013
Chicago Cubs 1/1
38. Brett Jackson, of, 22/2012
48. Trey McNutt, rhp, 21/2012
Chicago White Sox 2/1
20. Chris Sale, lhp, 22/2011
47. Alex White, rhp, 22/2011
85. Brent Morel, 3b/ss, 23/2011
Cincinnati Reds 1/3
7. Aroldis Chapman, lhp, 23/2011
50. Billy Hamilton, ss/2b, 20/2013
64. Devin Mesoraco, c, 22/2012
73. Yonder Alonso, 1b/of, 23/2011
Cleveland Indians 2/2
25. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b, 22/2011
47. Alex White, rhp, 22/2011
54. Jason Kipnis, 2b, 23/2011
61. Drew Pomeranz, lhp, 22/2012
Colorado Rockies 1/2
32. Tyler Matzek, lhp, 20/2013
49. Wilin Rosario, c, 22/2012
80. Nolan Arenado, 3b, 19/2013
Detroit Tigers 2/1
21. Jacob Turner, rhp, 19/2012
65. Nick Castellanos, 3b, 19/2013
87. Andy Oliver, lhp, 23/2011
Florida Marlins 0/1
81. Matt Dominguez, 3b, 21/2011
Houston Astros 1/1
42. Jordan Lyles, rhp, 20/2011
94. Jonathan Villar, ss, 19/2013
Kansas City Royals 5/4
8. Eric Hosmer, 1b, 21/2012
9. Mike Moustakas, 3b, 22/2011
10. Wil Myers, of/c, 20/2012
18. John Lamb, lhp, 20/2012
19. Mike Montgomery, lhp, 21/2012
51. Christian Colon, ss, 21/2012
68. Danny Duffy, lhp, 22/2012
69. Jake Odorizzi, rhp, 21/2013
83. Chris Dwyer, lhp, 22/2012
Los Angeles Angels 1/2
2. Mike Trout, of, 19/2012
57. Jean Segura, 2b, 21/2013
76. Tyler Chatwood, rhp, 21/2012
Los Angeles Dodgers 2/1
26. Dee Gordon, ss, 22/2012
89. Zach Lee, rhp, 19/2013
90. Rubby de la Rosa, rhp, 22/2011
Milwaukee Brewers 0/0
No Players on list
Minnesota Twins 1/3
34. Kyle Gibson, rhp, 23/2011
45. Aaron Hicks, of, 21/2013
60. Miguel Sano, 3b/ss, 17/2014
100. Joe Benson, of, 23/2012
New York Mets 1/2
44. Jenrry Mejia, rhp, 21/2011
59. Wilmer Flores, ss, 19/2013
77. Cesar Puello, of, 19/2013
New York Yankees 3/3
3. Jesus Montero, c, 21/2011
30. Gary Sanchez, c, 18/2014
41. Manny Banuelos, lhp, 20/2012
43. Dellin Betances, rhp, 23/2012
78. Andrew Brackman, rhp, 25/2011
98. Austin Romine, c, 22/2011
Oakland Athletics 0/2
63. Grant Green, ss, 23/2012
91. Chris Carter, 1b/of, 24/2011
Philadelphia Phillies 2/2
4. Domonic Brown, of, 23/2011
39. Jonathan Singleton, 1b/of, 19/2013
56. Brody Colvin, rhp, 20/2013
70. Jarred Cosart, rhp, 20, 2013
Pittsburgh Pirates 2/1
11. Jameson Taillon, rhp, 19/2013
46. Tony Sanchez, c, 22/2012
79. Stetson Allie, rhp, 20/2013
San Diego Padres 2/1
31. Casey Kelly, rhp, 21/2012
58. Simon Castro, rhp, 22/2011
75. Anthony Rizzo, 1b, 21/2012
San Francisco Giants 1/1
23. Brandon Belt, 1b, 22/2011
55. Zack Wheeler, rhp, 20/2013
Seattle Mariners 1/2
12. Dustin Ackley, 2b, 23/2011
16. Michael Pineda, rhp, 22/2011
53. Nick Franklin, ss/2b, 20/2013
St. Louis Cardinals 1/1
13. Shelby Miller, rhp, 20/2012
62. Zack Cox, 3b, 21/2012
Tampa Bay Rays 4/3
6. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, 23/2011
15. Matt Moore, lhp, 21/2013
22. Desmond Jennings, of, 24/2011
27. Chris Archer, rhp, 22/2012
71. Jake McGee, lhp, 24/2011
88. Josh Sale, of, 19/2013
92. Hak-Ju Lee, ss, 20/2013
Texas Rangers 2/1
24. Martin Perez, lhp, 19/2012
74. Jurickson Profar, ss, 18/2013
84. Tanner Scheppers, rhp, 24/2011
Toronto Blue Jays 2/2
29. Kyle Drabek, rhp, 23/2011
36. Travis d'Arnaud, c, 22/2012
40. Brett Lawrie, 2b, 21/2012
95. Deck McGuire, rhp, 21/2013
Washington Nationals 0/4
1. Bryce Harper, of, 18/2013
66. Danny Espinosa, ss/2b, 23/2011
72. Derek Norris, c, 22/2011
96. Wilson Ramos, c, 23/2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Tampa Bay Rays

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Tampa Bay Rays: B.J. Upton
It muse be a family thing, because Justin Upton was the Key to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the fear of turning into B.J. The older Upton came into the league with the hype that he would be hitting for power, stealing bases and have a good average. He was the number 2 prospect by Baseball America in 2004 at the age of 19! The problem is that he has never been able to live up to the hype, at least not for long stretches.

His first full season at the major league level was his best by far, he hit .300 with 24 home runs and 82 rbis, all highs for his career. He only stole 22 bases that season (has 40+ every year since), but the overall production has fallen substantially since that first season except for one small stretch when it looked like Upton was ready to take a leap into super-stardom.

That was the 2008 ALDS and ALCS, a stretch of 11 games where Upton carried the Rays into the World series by beating the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. In those 11 games Upton hit 7 home runs, had 15 rbis with a .304 batting average. The entire baseball world thought that he was finally going to live up to the hype as a legit power-speed-average player.

That wasn't the case, he followed up that season by posting consecutive averages of .241 and .237. He did hit 18 home runs last season, but because of his low average it was still a very underwhelming year.

The good news for Upton, he is still just 26 years old and has time to make something of his career, but another season like his last two may be the end of him. This season the Rays are expected to compete, and Upton is going to be hitting in the one or two hole, which means he needs to find a way to get on base.

The Rays lineup is not one that will scare opposing pitchers when other than Evan Longoria, there is no real difficult out. Upton apparently has the potential to be the guy who is feared by opposing pitchers, he has done it before, and with the loss of Carlos Pena, he will need to do it again this season. But I am unsure if  it will ever be possible to predict Upton, his trend is all or nothing.

Upton has played 8 seasons of professional baseball between Major and Minor League. He has three seasons with an average at or above .300. In those seasons he has 3 of his top 4 home run totals. Meaning when he is hitting for a low average, he isn't hitting home runs either, which is an unusual trend. Most players average goes down the more home runs they hit, but Upton is the opposite.

Looking at that trend it shows that Upton is either hitting the ball very well, or not at all; there is no in-between. That makes any projections of Upton a crap-shoot, but what it does show is that him having a good year will be key to the Rays. If trends continues, a good year for him is going to be a complete season with power and average as well.

While his bat is a question mark, one thing that is sure is that Upton will be a top tier fielder. He hasn't won a Gold Glove, but he has been towards the top of the league in advanced fielding stats for the majority of his career.

In a tough division, the Rays will need their lineup to hit well all year long if they expect to compete. They have solid pitching, but in the American League East, hitting is what wins ball-games.

This year is also important for Upton because he has Desmond Jennings nipping at his heels for playing time. Jennings is the number 22 rated prospect this year by Baseball America, and was actually ranked 6th before last season. If Upton struggles, he may be benched to give Jennings a shot in Center field and in the lead-off spot. Jennings has less power potential, but more speed and average upside than Upton. There is clearly a future for both, but the Rays have plenty of young talent that will eventually get their shot.

Also manager Joe Maddon has already benched Upton before for not hustling, so him being benched to look at young talent seems like a reasonable possibility.

Others considered: The Rays have 7 players in the top 100 of Baseball Americas prospects, which is one of the highest totals in the league. These players have some developing to do, but they are the future of the Rays, the question is whether they will become Upton-like and never develop. Or they could become like Longoria or David Price and become some of the best in baseball...Price and Jeremy Helickson: Price has done it before with a dominating 2010 season, Helickson will be in his first full year, but has done very well at every level. If they are able to put together strong seasons, the Rays will be able to match up with any team in the American league. Both are young and with an increased work-load they may struggle, but they both have Cy Young upside.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs  Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians  Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers  Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers New York Yankees Milwaukee Brewers Oakland Athletics Seattle Mariners New York Mets Philadelphia Phillies

Monday, March 7, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Philadelphia Phillies

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley
On a team as loaded with star power it's nearly impossible to say one player will make or break their season. The Phillies have about as many superstars as any other team in baseball, but Utley is the one guy whose success is the key to them going from very good to the best team in baseball.

Last season, Utley sprained his thumb causing him to miss all of July and half of August. In the month of July the Phillies went 15-13, which is decent, but goes to show the importance of having Utley in the lineup. I won't put the injury prone tag on Utley because it was the first time he has missed such a substantial time during a season. That being said he is getting older and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him on the DL again this year.

Utley was considered the best second basemen in baseball going into 2010, not only because of his hitting, but his glove as well. While he has never won a Gold Glove, he did win the Fielding Bible award in 2010.

Since becoming a full-time player in 2005, Utley has three seasons with more than 30 home runs, four 100+ Rbi seasons, five seasons with 13+ stolen bases, and never batted below .275 including two years above .300. Plain and simple, Utley is GOOD...Not just good, but he has been the best second basemen in baseball over the last six years. Only last year did Robinson Cano surpass him at the top.

That was just one season though and 2011 is there for Utley to take back the top spot and carry the Phillies to the World Series. They have several power hitters, several base stealers, but Utley is the one guy who can do it all, which is key for their lineup to produce.

Assuming he hits second or third, Utley has Shane Victorino in front of him, as well as possibly Jimmy Rollins. Those two guys are going to be on base a lot, having Utley to drive them in is important to the team. Behind Utley is Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez; two guys with power, but not great averages. Having Utley on base in front of them will increase their run production as well as allow them to see better pitches.

You could argue that Utley isn't so important because Howard and Ibanez could just drive in the top two. That's true, but Utley is able to not only drive in the runs, but be one base for the sluggers to hit him in as well. If he can get back into his top form he would be a huge run producer for the Phillies.

The Phillies have one of the most amazing rotations I have ever seen. They have two guys who are Cy Young candidates every year in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, then they have two guys who would be aces on almost any other team. Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt will be over-shadowed, but they could end up with the best numbers of the bunch. Joe Blanton is the number 5, and he is the kind of pitcher that any team in baseball would love. He'll pitch lots of innings and have a solid era.

Because of this dominant rotation, the Phillies don't need to score tons of runs to be one of the best teams in baseball. But they do have a good lineup which can take a lot of pressure off of their rotation. If they can give early leads, the starters can limit their stress and keep their arm healthy for the playoffs.

Others Considered: Jimmy Rollins was considered, but I think he is pretty much done. Age has caught up with him and his bat is not what it used to be. That being said, they have Victorino who will fill in fine at the lead-off spot...I also considered the bull-pen, namely, Brad Lidge. He has been up and down for the last few years and he'll need to pitch well in order to assure the Phillies get all the wins they can. He may get a lot of action this season as the closer, but he'll need to be more consistent if he wants to keep the closer role.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: New York Mets

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

New York Mets: Mark Rogow/Jason Craig
For the second time, it's a non-player, but looking over the Mets, they are one heck of a mess. Rogow is the Coordinator of Medical Services and Craig is the Strength and Conditioning coordinator; two guys who look like they will have plenty of work this season.

The Mets the last few years have been one of the most injury riddled teams in the league. I don't blame these two men for that, but this year will likely be no different than the last few years because the same injury plagued players are coming back.

Carlos Beltran has had knee problems for the last two seasons, which has caused him to play in just 81 and 64 games in those seasons. Just a few years ago he was a 40 home rune 100 rbis batter, but injuries have derailed his career. He is still bothered by knee injuries, so chances are he will miss time again in 2011.

Jose Reyes had stolen 56+ bases in 4 seasons in a row up until the 2009 season. That was when injuries set in to slow him down. In 2009, Calf injuries kept him out of the majority of the season, then in 2010 he found out he had a thyroid problem which forced him to stop baseball activities. He eventually made it back, and played well for the Mets, but still he has question marks due to the recent injuries.

Luis Castillo is old, but also injury prone as well. In the last 3 years, he has played in under 90 games twice. Some of that was due to lack of production, but he also spent time on the disabled list both years. He is getting up there in age, but the Mets expect him to start. I doubt that happens, and I think he will be out of the lineup sooner than later.

Jason Bay isn't exactly injury prone, he has had just one year since becoming a full-time player in which he played fewer than 145 games. That was last year when he missed the final 2 months from a concussion. Head injuries are unpredictable, and it is tough to tell what the impact could be on his play this season. The Mets will need him to step up because he is one of their better hitters that isn't a major injury risk.

Francisco Rodriguez isn't normally much of an injury plagued player. But he did miss a month and a half due to a torn ligament in his thumb suffered in an off-field altercation with his girlfriends dad. He has been able to throw and is expected to start the season in the closer role, but hand injuries are dangerous for pitchers, especially a closer who has a generally violent delivery.

2 years ago Johan Santana was the last person anyone would point to as injury prone; he had started 33+ games in 5 years in a row. Then in 2009 he was fine until late August when the injury questions showed up.

He missed the entire month of September because of surgery to remove bone chips in his throwing elbow. 2010 was similar because he was healthy until the final month of the season. Then he got hurt and needed surgery to repair his shoulder. That injury is still a problem and Santana isn't expected to join the team until the second half of the season.

When he pitches, Santana is one of the best in baseball; his worst era since 2002 was 3.33. Also in that time he has posted 6 seasons with an era below 3. He may be the best pitcher over that time period, but injuries have put question marks on his future.

After naming these 6 players, there is only 1 star left on the team, David Wright, who is likely not to miss any games, and be the only player who is consistently producing for the Mets.

If everything were to go right, and none of these players went to the DL, the Mets would be a contender. They are some of the best players in baseball, but I see no way they can remain healthy for an entire season. They may not all get hurt, and likely it won't happen at the same time, but the loss of players of such a high caliber would be deadly...Again.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Washington Huskies senior night, Thank you MBA, Holiday and Venoy

Tonight the Huskies face USC in their season finale. The game itself may end up being meaningless as far as standings go, but for Husky fans it will be a farewell to a senior class that has done some great things for the program.

This senior class was part of a Pac10 regular season championship, a Pac10 tournament championship, 2 NCAA tournament appearances, as well as a sweet 16 appearance. Thats without whatever they may do to finish off this season.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning is one of the most entertaining players I have ever watched, but at the same time the most frustrating. I will never forget the flying Tea-Bag against Stanford last season, it was magical. When there is a fast break, he automatically becomes the fastest player on the court, he wants the highlight dunk. When he gets it, he is going to bring the house down and light a fire under his teammates.

Then there are those times when I can't watch him play. The easy lay ins that bounce out all game long. Maybe it isn't because he misses easy ones, it is because he makes them look easier than they are. His athleticism and ball skills are tough to beat, and when he is on, he is tough to stop.

An unofficial nickname some friends and I have for him is the Bear. He just plays like a beast and you never know when he'll explode during the game. It's bound to happen, but his ferocity and beastliness are off the charts.

Justin Holiday is the kind of player who was unnoticed up until the end of last season. That doesn't mean he wasn't doing big things for the team, he just wasn't getting any attention. The lock down defender role Holiday has played at Washington has been huge for the Huskies. He can take away the opponents best scorers for long stretches in the game. He plays with a high motor and intensity that is impossible to coach.

He has gotten more credit this season as his offense has progressed. At times he may turn the ball over, but his presence on the offensive side has been a huge boost for the Huskies. He is the quiet third scorer for the team, but has also been able to keep his intensity on defense.

My fondest memory of Holiday will be what he does following every post-game press conference. As he walks out he says "You all have a good night," which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it just shows the kind of man he is off the court.

Venoy Overton is the one of these three that fans have loved for his entire career. Not that Matt or Justin weren't playing their roles, they just weren't on the level that V.O. was. When he comes into the game, the entire tempo changes. The opposing guards are know they are going to have him all over them all the way up the court. He will go after the ball and isn't afraid to foul. When he goes into a game he always has an impact, even as a 6th man, Venoy is able to be one of the leaders of the team.

Other than just defense, Overton runs the offense in a way that looks like it is out of control, but really is just based purely on quickness. He gets the ball into the front court in just seconds, and tries to make a drive right off of the bat. When he doesn't have it he slows it down and makes the smart play. He's also the Huskies closer, whether at the free throw line, or making a full court run to the hoop, he makes plays when it counts.

The first time I ever broke the no cheering as press was because of Venoy. Against WSU the steal at mid-court on the inbounds pass had be jumping up and down clapping. Oops I guess?

I came to UW the same time as these 3, and the legacy they will leave behind is a great one. The Washington program is near the top, and it is in large part to this senior class. We'll see how the season wraps up, but if the past tells us anything, the Huskies are bound to make a run.

The Huskies have some good recruits coming in to try to fill the shoes of the seniors. I doubt we'll have them all for their senior night in a few years, but ya never know. Tony Wroten Jr. may end up staying and dominating the conference for all 4 years.

Quick prediction: Washington-81 USC-64

MLB Preview, Key to success: Seattle Mariners

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Seattle Mariners: Justin Smoak
On a team full of young talent, Smoak is the guy who needs to step up this season more than anyone else. He was the number 13 rated prospect by Baseball America before the 2010 season, and was called up midway through April to join the Texas Rangers.

He was expected to make a splash as a power hitter with a high average as well. But he couldn't live up to the expectations and finished his first season hitting just .218 with 13 home runs in 100 games. While that was a disappointment, I think it may be the reality that Smoak was highly overrated.

The Rangers drafted him 11th overall in 2008 at 21 years old. He's played in 170 minor league games over the course of 3 seasons, which includes last years two stints in AAA. His average was solid, .288, but he did not have the power you'd expect. He hit just 24 home runs in his time in the minors. Granted he is still very young, the power may never develop and he could become similar to Billy Butler, a solid average, but mediocre power first basemen.

The Mariners traded Cliff Lee for Smoak plus prospects last season, they were and are hoping he is able to become one of the better hitters in baseball. Scouts have so see something in him that points to some power in the future, but going into his 4th professional year, it has yet to be seen.

This season the Mariners don't look to be a contender, but after last seasons' offensive woes, they need someone to hit for power this year. Smoak appears the best option to do it for the M's, and he will need to for them to be any better than last season.

First base is the deepest position in baseball, the Mariners need to know what they have in Smoak. They would like him to be a .280+ hitter with 30 home runs, but will that ever happen? Who knows. What I do know is that he is the one Mariner youngster who has played some time at the Major League level and should be the most polished.

This is the year for him to break out and start the improvement of the Mariners. They may not be winning now, but if he can develop along with the others listed below, they could be competing in the next 2-5 years.

Others considered: Felic Hernandez: For a moment I thought it was the King, but he is going to be good, we know that, but this season isn't all that important for him to be the best...Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Adam Moore: Along with Smoak, these youngsters are the future of the Mariners lineup. This year is more of a developmental year, but they need these at bats in order to help them develop as they become the core of the Mariners...Michael Pineda: At just 22 years old, Pineda is looking to be in the Mariners rotation. He has dominated in the minor leagues, posting a 2.49 era over 404 innings. If he can develop into a second top tier starter behind Felix, the Mariners could be a force to be reckoned with down the road.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs  Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians  Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers  Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers New York Yankees Milwaukee Brewers Oakland Athletics

Friday, March 4, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Oakland Athletics

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson
In 2010, the A's were a .500 baseball team, but that was without their best pitcher for a third of the season. The 23 year old Anderson joined the team in 2009, and was brilliant, he posted a 4.06 era and struck out 150 batters in 175.1 innings. That was as a 21 year old too, which made the A's very excited to see what he could do in his sophomore season.

He was even better during his second season, posting a 2.80 era and a 1.19 whip. The only downside for Anderson, was he suffered two different elbow injuries that forced him to miss almost the entirety of May, June and July.

The A's have said the problem with Anderson is he throws his slider too much, which caused the injury. The slider is his best pitch, but he threw it more than 31% of the time last season. While he dominated opposing batters with it, the A's would rather he threw it less in order to pitch more innings.

The A's want to see him throw his change up more often, which he threw just 8.5% of the time last season. They hope that the less violent arm motion will preserve his arm. He is just 23 and the A's don't want to force him into an early injury like has been done to other young stars like Mark Prior or Stephen Strasburg.

Even though the Texas Rangers ran away with the AL West last season, that doesn't mean they are assured to repeat in 2011. They no longer have Cliff Lee who helped them down the stretch, they also are relying on some questionable pitchers of their own such as Brandon Webb. So why can't the A's make a run this year?

If they want to, it all starts at the top of their rotation with Anderson. He has shown that he has the stuff to dominate the league. He is a big strong power pitcher who is young and improving. If he stays healthy all season long, I would expect him to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Pitching will have to be the way the A's win this season. They have a very light hitting team, which may have Hideki Matsui as their biggest power hitter. I wouldn't be surprised if no one hit 20 home runs for the A's in 2011. Maybe someone steps up, but for them to win, they need to out pitch the rest of the weak AL West.

Others considered: Rich Harden: When healthy he is one of the best, but that is very rare. He is already hurt and won't start the season in the rotation. If he can get healthy and give the A's even a few starts, it would be a boost to their rotation...Entire lineup: As I mentioned, the A's have a bad lineup. They need someone to step up, but looking through I don't see anyone who looks primed for a big year. It could be Deric Barton, or maybe Josh Willingham, but someone needs to hit for them to win games.

Quick side note: I'm going to go one team at a time, but still put two up per day. This gives more space for each team, and easier for sort-ability.

MLB Preview, Key to success: Milwaukee Brewers

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo
The Brewers picked up Zack Greinke in the off-season to be the ace of their staff, but in reality they already had someone who has Ace abilities. That's Gallardo, who has had several seasons of very good pitching, and really hasn't had a bad year yet.

He's been in the league four years, but one of those years he only had 4 starts due to a torn ACL while covering first base on a ground ball. The 4 years he has pitched, have been not only dominant, but consistent, especially the last two seasons.

In those seasons he pitched 185.2 and 185 innings each, his era was 3.73 and 3.84, and he struck out 204 and 200 batters. Basically his two seasons were almost identical, which is one of the reasons he is so important this year.

Those numbers were as the Ace of the staff, except for a short time when CC Sabathia was on the team. A number one is a guy the team can lean on for a win every five days. Gallardo was close to that, but wasn't quite to the caliber of a guy like Greinke, but he still is just 25 years old.

Two factors lead me to believe this will be the year that Gallardo puts it all together and becomes a top level starter in the National League.

First is his age, he is coming into his prime, and is coming off of two seasons where he pitched a solid innings total, but wasn't overworked. His arm should be fresh, so combined with him being in the prime of his career, he should break out this season, and improve on already very good numbers.

The second reason is because the pressure will be off. He's the number two guy in town, which means that he will not only pitch against other teams two, but also won't be expected to carry the team. The Brewers brought in Greinke to be their go to guy, I imagine Gallardo wants that to be his role. He's out to prove he is the ace of the team, but won't have the pressure of having to win every single start.

Something very concerning about Gallardo is how he sometimes just doesn't have his stuff working and it leads to very bad starts. Last year he had six starts where he gave up 5 or more runs, including a stretch in August where he gave up 6+ runs in 3 straight starts.

An ace is the kind of guy who even when he doesn't have it, will still have a productive start. Last year Greinke struggled overall, but 2 years ago, he had just 2 starts all year where he gave up 5 or more runs. Gallardo improved last year in this aspect, but if he wants to make the jump to elite starting pitcher, he'll have to continue to lower his bad start numbers.

The Brewers have as good a shot as anyone to win the NL Central. With the loss of Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals are very beatable. The Cincinnati Reds are young, which could lead them to regress. If Gallardo steps up and gives the Brewers a top notch 1-2, they could be contending for the division title.

Others considered: Prince Fielder/Ryan Braun: There was talk before last season that these two could be the best combo in the middle of any lineup in the league. They had decent years, but neither one really played to their potential. The Brewers need these guys to be power hitters they once were in order to carry the lineup...Rickie Weeks: He is coming off an amazing season, but everyone knew he could hit, the question is, can he stay healthy all year long? If he can I expect another monster year from Weeks...Zack Greinke: I touched on it before, but he's coming off of a down year. The Brewers needs him to return to Cy Young form at the top of their rotation.

Quick side note: I'm going to go one team at a time, but still put two up per day. This gives more space for each team, and easier for sort-ability.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs  Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians  Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers  Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers New York Yankees