2011 MLB Preview Podcast

I sat down with Ham Schmitmeyer and Brad Koesters here at the glorious Prospect Junkies studios to record our MLB Preview Podcast.
During the podcast we discussed our predictions for the division winners, major awards and World Series winners and losers, and I must say that I’m surprised with the level of agreement we shared. We also discussed the predictions of Prospect Junkies webmaster, graphic designer and technical director, Curt Albers.
Click here to check out the MLB Preview Podcast.
Enjoy,
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2011 MLB Team Preview – San Francisco Giants


Key Additions—Miguel Tejada

Key Losses–Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe

Lineup—Really, this lineup was nothing special last year, just got lightning in the bottle in the playoffs. And what did they do to get better? Really, nothing. I actually think they went backwards a little bit with this offense, but the maturation of Buster Posey could help with that gap. The infield will need a much better year from Pablo Sandoval to stay competitive, they but do have 2 professional hitters in Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez on that side of the infield. Cody Ross was a very nice addition in the outfield during their playoff run, but I expect him to come back down to earth. Andres Torres is very good defensively, but leaves something to be desired, and Mark DeRosa, although a very sound hitter, is not the type of guy you want in your left field spot. I just don’t think this is a very good offense, and think that they will really struggle to score runs.

Rotation—The rotation was the reason this team won the World Series last year, and it will be the reason that they are in the hunt to do so again in 2011. Obviously they are headlined by Tim Lincecum, who has accomplished so much in such a short career. I think the key to this rotation though is the horses they have in the middle slots. Matt Cain is an absolute beast who continually eats innings, and the young southpaws Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner should continue to improve and perform very well for this team. I still think that Barry Zito has something left in the tank, and if he can find a little magic in the 5 spot that will only cement this rotation as one of the best in baseball. Top to bottom, this is a top 3-4 rotation in baseball.

Bullpen—The injury to Brian Wilson has to be concerning, as they don’t have another shut down guy in that pen. They do have some very solid lefties in Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, but neither is good enough to step into the closers role. I don’t expect the Wilson injury to be a huge problem, but I do think that the lack of run scoring potential will mean plenty of save opportunities, and that could spell trouble early. I don’t expect this bullpen to get as much work as others, but a healthy Wilson is much needed.

Impact Rookie—Brandon Belt, 1B. Belt was a good, but not spectacular player on a Texas team that made an Omaha appearance in 2009. In his first year as a professional however, his stock skyrocketed. Belt posted a .352/.455/.620 line through three levels last season while totaling 76 XBH, 23 HR, 112 RBI and 22 SB, and he has a shot to make this team.

Outlook—It was a magical run for the Giants in 2010, and with the pitching staff that they have they could easily do it again. But I just don’t think they have enough offense to do so, barring another streak of hitting like they had last year. The division is much improved, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them out of the playoffs entirely. It is going to be a fun year in the west, as well as all of baseball.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

NL West Preview:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

2011 MLB Team Preview – San Diego Padres

Key Additions—Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, Cameron Maybin, Brad Hawpe

Key Losses—Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada

Lineup—The loss of A-Gon obviously puts a huge strain on the rest of the lineup. Although the Padres did very well in the players they got back from the trade, you still have a very big hole to fill when you lose a player like Gonzalez. I do like that they signed Brad Hawpe to fill that hole, although he is nowhere close to being the player that they had. I also like what they did in the rest of the infield, adding Hudson and Bartlett to go along with youngster Chase Headley. They are taking a chance that one time top prospect Cameron Maybin can finally flourish, but he is going to track down a lot of balls in CF. Ryan Ludwick is a solid LF, but I am concerned with what they will get from Will Venable in RF. The nice thing about this team is they have some pitching depth which should be a bonus if they want to enhance their lineup at some point in the season.

Rotation—This rotation is led by Mat Latos, who is quickly becoming a go-to pitcher in this league. He should spearhead this rotation and be near the top of the Cy Young voting at season’s end. Following him are 2 young arms who should perform fairly well. Clayton Richard and Tim Stauffer have both showed some promised and should continue to approve. I really like the move to go out and sign Aaron Harang. Harang returns home to San Diego, and should really benefit from Petco Park. I expect him to put up pretty solid numbers this year. The last spot should go to Cory Luebke, a former sandwich pick it is time to see what he can do. This rotation performed well last year, and should again be able to keep this team in the division race.

Bullpen–Despite all of the banter, Heath Bell is still a Padre and leads this bullpen. He should get plenty of save opportunities and should be one of the top closers in the game. They added some depth by signing Chad Qualls, and should have a fairly good bullpen. The one thing to watch is if anyone emerges throughout the year which would make Bell expendable.

Impact Rookie—Cory Luebke, LHP. While he won’t blow it by you with his fastball that sits in the high 80’s and can touch 92, Luebke is a strike thrower who will go to his slider and change up in any count. If he can get 26 starts and 160 innings, he could win 10 games with good peripherals in that park.

Outlook—In a division that I think is up for grabs, I give the Padres a good chance of at least contending into September. I like what they did with their lineup, although I still think they are going to have a tough time scoring runs, and their rotation has the chance to be pretty good. With the emergence of more young players, this is a team on the rise.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

NL West Preview:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

2011 MLB Team Preview – Los Angeles Dodgers

Key Additions—-Juan Uribe, Jon Garland, Marcus Thames

Key Losses—George Sherrill, Ryan Theriot, Scott Podsednik

Lineup—After a few years, the Manny Ramirez experiment is over in LA. Replacing him in LF is Marcus Thames, who finally should get a full time job to show what he can do. The other 2 outfield spots are good young players in Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Both of these guys have shown flashes of excellence at the major league level and have the potential to be very good major league players. If they can put it together at the same time this outfield could be very dangerous. James Loney has provided a solid bat at 1b, and should be a stalwart in the middle of this lineup. A big question is what this team can get from Rafael Furcal, who is still quite dangerous when healthy, however at his age is rarely healthy for a full season. Casey Blake provides a solid bat and good leadership at 3b and the addition of Juan Uribe bolsters the 2b position. I like how this lineup is put together, and think it should be good enough to contend in the division.

Rotation—I really like how the Dodgers put together this rotation. At the top Clayton Kershaw is quickly turning into the ace of the staff. He has the ability to shut down opposing teams, and go late into games. Chad Billingsley is a big question mark. When on, he is very good, but he is very inconsistent. What he gives the Dodgers may go a long way in not only determining this season, but also his future with the organization. Hiroki Kuroda has good stuff, and provides you a solid option in the middle of the rotation. I really like that they have 2 veterans in Ted Lilly and Jon Garland in this rotation. Both our guys that will give you innings and solid outings, and should put up good numbers as well. Outside of Kershaw this isn’t a dominating staff, but a very deep and winning rotation.

Bullpen—As with most teams, the bullpen could be a real issue for this team. Jonathan Broxton has the ability to be a lockdown closer, and has proven he can do it in the past. But can he do it again and become consistent. That is a huge question mark over this bullpen and team. The rest of the pen leaves something to be desired, but I don’t see it being as large of an issue because of the starting staff’s ability to go deep into games. They do have some good arms to bridge that path, but the key to this bullpen will be what they get from Broxton.

Impact Rookie—Kenley Jansen, RHP. Many of you will remember Jansen for wowing the World with his arm in the 2009 WBC as the catcher for the Netherlands team. Problem is, he couldn’t hit a lick. Converted to pitcher, Jansen’s mid 90’s fastball allowed him to reach the major leagues just a year later. Jansen will be a major part of this team as a set up man and possible replacement for Broxton if he falters again.

Outlook—This team had a very disappointing 2010, but I think they have all of the pieces in place to get back to winning and competing in 2011. I really like the depth of this rotation from top to bottom, and think that with a little luck can have a pretty impressive lineup. Can they compete with the Rockies and Giants, that is to be determined, but I think this team has a chance to be there until the end.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

NL West Preview:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

2011 MLB Team Preview – Colorado Rockies

Key Additions—Matt Lindstrom, Jason Giambi, Jose Lopez

Key Losses—Clint Barmes

Lineup—Carlos Gonzalez had a monster year last year, and given his age, you can only expect him to get better. He can do it all at the plate, but what I like probably the most is he gives you great defense in LF. Considering the big outfield in Coors, this is a very important part of his game. Dexter Fowler plays alongside him in CF, and although he doesn’t have a great stick, he provides defense in CF. Seth Smith is the RF, and should continue to grow as a hitter. The infield is led by Troy Tulowitzki, who is emerging as one of the top shortstops in the game. If he can stay healthy, he is an all star. The rest of the infield is average in my opinion. Ian Stewart needs to continue to build upon his success from last year to be a quality 3B. Todd Helton is not quite the hitter that he once was, but still provides leadership and good at bats for this team. With the 2 young guns in Tulo and Gonzalez in the middle of the lineup, this lineup will remain good enough to win for a long period of time. The question is, can the rest of the lineup carry them to a division title?

Rotation—Ubaldo Jimenez is a bona fide ace at the top of the rotation. He put up one of the best 1st half’s I have ever seen last year, and although he struggled a bit in the 2nd half, he still is a dominant force on the mound. The big question mark for this team is who follows him in the rotation. Jorge De La Rosa flirted with leaving, but ultimately decided to stay in Colorado and should be a stalwart in the rotation. Aaron Cook has shown in the past he has the ability to be an above average pitcher, but will he be able to stay healthy and contribute for a full year. I think that the key to this rotation lies in 2nd year player Jhoulys Chacin. He has the ability to be a front of the line starter, and I expect him to take a big leap forward. Along with Jimenez, they will form a very solid 1-2 punch.

Bullpen—If Houston Street can stay healthy and remain the closer for this team, I really like what they have out of this bullpen. Adding an arm like Lindstrom who has proven he can close games if called upon will only bolster this rotation, and goes with a few other power arms in the pen. If Street gets injured then all bets are off, as they will lose the depth they will build, but if Street can stay healthy I think this bullpen could be a key clog in the race for the division title.

Impact Rookie—Rex Brothers, LHP. A starter at Lipscomb and 1st round supplemental pick in 2009, Brothers has taken to the pen as a professional. He possesses a plus fastball slider combination and if he can improve his 5.6 BB/9 ratio he could be a valuable late inning addition to the Colorado bullpen.

Outlook-–Obviously the team to beat in the division is the Giants, but I think the Rockies will be able to give them a run for their money. They have the young pieces in place to continue to win games year after year, and I fully expect them to be in the hunt till the very end. Do they have enough to win, I question that, but I do think it will be an exciting year in Denver.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

NL West Preview:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

2011 MLB Team Preview – Arizona Diamondbacks

Key Additions—Melvin Mora, Zack Duke, Armando Galarraga, JJ Putz, Xavier Nady

Key Losses—Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche

Lineup—This team lost 2 of its big power guys in Reynolds and LaRoche, so they are going to need to have guys step up if they are going to hit the ball out of the park. But the good news is they have players that have the ability to do so. I like their outfield, if Xavier Nady can get healthy, he will be a nice compliment to Chris Young and Justin Upton. If nothing else, those 2 in Center and Right will provide great defense. Melvin Mora is being asked to replace Reynolds, and he should do a pretty good job at that. Stephen Drew is a very capable hitting shortstop, and should provide some pop from that position. I do have some concern with the right side of the infield, as I don’t believe that Juan Miranda or Kelly Johnson will provide much for the offense. At catcher, Miguel Montero has shown flashes of being an above average catcher, but needs to stay healthy if he is going to do it. I like the path this offense is on, and I think that they have a chance to be pretty productive.

Rotation—There is not a headliner in this rotation, but I do think they have the ability to be a pretty good young staff, as they have guys who are still growing. Joe Saunders was the centerpiece of the Dan Haren deal, but has really struggled since coming over to Arizona. He needs to get back on track and be the leader of this rotation. They have a few young arms in Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy who have pitched well in the past, but are now being thrown into roles that they may not be ready for. How these guys perform will take some pressure off of Saunders. The back end of the rotation, as with most teams, is a crapshoot. Barry Enright and Zack Duke should man the final 2 spots, but they have yet to be consistent at the big league level. And don’t count out Armando Galarraga. The kid has the talent, just needs to put it together. I do like how the D-Backs are building their rotation through deals, but unless one of the young guys steps up to be a stopper, they are going to go through some growing pains.

Bullpen—The D-Backs signed JJ Putz to once again be a closer, and he is back in the NL. I believe he will be pretty effective at the back end of the rotation when given the chances, but the question will be how many chances he will get. I don’t think he will have much help from the rest of the pen, as there are no arms that I would be confident in throwing out there. With young pitchers in the rotation who will prove to be inconsistent, and a shaky pen, I expect this to be a real problem area for the D-Backs.

Impact Rookie—Jarrod Parker, RHP. Having missed the 2010 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Parker entered 2011 with an outside shot to break camp with an MLB job. An unrealistic goal, but the battle will serve him well when he does arrive. Parker will start the season in the minor leagues and will have an innings limit leash but 60-70 of those innings could come in a big league uniform.

Outlook—There is some good young talent on this team, however I don’t think this is a year they will be able to compete with the San Francisco’s of the division. It will be very interesting to see how this team handles the Justin Upton situation. There were rumors he was available in the offseason. If this team falters, will he be available again? As for the division, I am afraid the D-Backs will be staring up from the bottom.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

NL West Preview:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

2011 MLB Team Preview – St. Louis Cardinals

Key Additions—Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot

Key Losses—Brad Penny, Brendan Ryan

Lineup—As long as you have a starting lineup anchored by Albert Pujols, the best hitter in the game, you know you are going to score some runs. Albert is going to once again put up huge numbers despite the contract situation hanging over his head. My big concern is what the rest of the offense will do around him. Offensively, I do like their outfield. I believe Colby Rasmus will improve in center and you know you can count of Matt Holliday in LF. The addition of Berkman should provide a boost to their lineup, although it is anyone’s guess if he can play right field. As much as I like this outfield offensively, I think defensively it could be one of the worst in the game. Outside of Pujols, the infield leaves a lot to be desired. They really don’t have anyone that can hit for much of an average or power. Skip Schumaker, David Freese, and Ryan Theriot are names that don’t scare anyone. And as good as Yadier Molina is behind the plate catching games, he hasn’t provided much of a bat. Pujols will carry this lineup, but in the end it is not balanced enough to win a division.

Rotation—If I had written this before spring training started, it would have been hands down the best in the division. But how things change with one injury. The loss of Adam Wainwright changes the whole perception of this rotation and team. He was a horse at the front of the rotation, and losing him may be too big of a hit to overcome. You can still expect good things from Chris Carpenter, but there is the question mark as to whether he will be a Cardinal all season. Jaime Garcia had a very good year last season, but considering the number of innings he pitched I do expect him to take a step back. I do think they will get solid contributions from Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse, but after these 2 guys the 5th starter is anyone’s guess. With Wainwright, this team is the favorite to win the division. Without him, I am not sure they have enough firepower.

Bullpen—Ryan Franklin has done a great job as the closer considering the type of pitcher he is, and will continue to get the opportunities this season. They do have a few power arms in the pen in Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan. But I just think there is going to come a time when Franklin can no longer fool hitters, and they will need someone else to close, and I just don’t think they have that guy. And I don’t think their rotation is going to consistently deep into games, thus leaving this pen vulnerable.

Impact Rookie—Lance Lynn, RHP. As a junior at Ole Miss in 2008, Lynn teamed up with fellow RHP Cody Satterwhite, to form one of the most talented yet underachieving duos in the nation. Last year he went 13-10 with a 4.77 ERA in AAA. Though he got a fair shake at that open 5th rotation spot this spring, it doesn’t look like he’ll win it initially. St. Louis will need arms sooner rather than later and Lynn should be the first one they call upon.

Outlook—With a healthy Wainwright, there is a pretty good chance I have them winning the division, or I at least have to put them in the conversation. As long as Pujols is here they are going to be relevant, but I just think with that contract situation hanging over their heads, and the Wainwright injury, it may be a long season in St. Louis. They will still be a middle of the pack type of team in the central, but I put their odds at finishing 4th or 5th better than finishing 1st.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

NL Central Preview:

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Houston Astros

Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals