Breaking Balls: Gunaxin’s 2010 MLB Season Outlook

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The bad new is that picture right there is enough to make this baseball fan want to vomit (I’m a Blue Jays supporter), the good news is today is the first day of the 2010 Major League Baseball season. While 2009 saw the storied and disgustingly wealthy New York Yankees open up a their “new” stadium and march towards a 27th World Series championship, can the Minnesota Twins enjoy an equally impressive inaugural season in the brand new (and not entirely identical to their old house) Target Field? Perhaps your unequivocal author with a penchant for hating on every team in the league isn’t the best person to preview the upcoming season. So that’s why we’ve brought you some of the freshest and most respected baseball bloggers from across the country to weigh on 2010 with their thoughts and predictions.

The lineup includes:

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Jerod Morris of Midwest Sports Fans

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Garrett Wilson of Monkey With A Halo

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Dan Port of Baseball Press

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Aaron Fischman of Dodger Blue Blog

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Gunaxin's own Zach, resident Baltimore Orioles fan

What was your favorite free-agent signing during the off-season?

Morris: Andruw Jones being signed by the White Sox to a one year contract that will pay him the equivalent of a satchel full of a hamburgers. If Jones stays fat, lazy, and Mendoza-like in his hitting success, nothing is really lost. If Jones somehow regains a little motivation and stops inhibiting his incredible talent with immense immaturity and idiocy, then the White Sox could end up getting not only a 30-40 HR guy, but potentially a great defensive center fielder as well. For the price, a great flyer for Kenny Williams to take. (BTW…through 46 Spring ABs, Jones has 2 HRs, 9 RBI’s, and .326/.426/.543.)

Port: Adam LaRoche’s one-year $4.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks.  Not overpaid, and he slots in well as a home run and RBI guy.  His numbers are unbelievably consistent.  At this point, the only way he’d improve his regularity would be with a daily glass of prune juice.

Wilson: Not to be a homer, but how can you not like the Angels getting the reigning World Series MVP for just $6.5 million?  Matsui may be getting old, but everyone saw just how much he has left in his bat last post-season and there is little reason to believe he is going to slow down much, if at all, this year.  Hideki is just another professional hitter to complement Bobby Abreu and help Kendry Morales continue to reach his full potential.

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Fischman: My favorite free agent signing is a toss-up between the Cardinals’ re-signing of Matt Holliday and the Red Sox’s acquisition of John Lackey. Matt Holliday’s presence will be crucial for the St. Louis line-up in that it makes it much more difficult for their opponents to pitch around Pujols. The re-signing of Holliday should ensure that Albert Pujols is, as usually, the best hitter in the Bigs. Barring injury to either of these two guys, the Cardinals are going to beat tough to beat.

Zach: Vlad Guerrero,  Texas. Yeah Vlad is older, slower, and more DH-centric. But he should stay healthier (provided he does not see much field), and Texas has a great park to hit in. Sure, signing him and Harden would have been sweeter 5 years ago. But I can’t complain at one year on a make-good deal. Seems better than tons of years for the other assorted mediocrities.

Which off-season free agent signing do you feel was the biggest waste of money?

Morris: All of the free agents signed by the Cubs. If the ultimate goal is to win a World Series…and your franchise has not shot in hell of ever winning one…why waste money on free agents? Drunken blowhards will fill the bleachers regardless of whether Marlon Byrd or Xavier Nady are on the roster. Cubs management just needs to realize it’s not going to win, cut costs, and maximize profits. Wrigleyville will be too drunk to notice.

Port: The Astros inking Brandon Lyon to a three-year $15 million deal, made even “better” by being done in early December. There’s nothing like tossing a $5 million per year contract to a set-up guy who can’t strike people out. They could’ve held off and gotten someone like Kiko Calero for a fraction of that. In light of this and some other deals, the club really should’ve spent some of that money on psychological competency tests for Ed Wade.

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Wilson: No team did anything disastrously stupid this off-season, though the Mets overpaid (as usual) to get Jason Bay. But if there was one moronic move, it was the Astros signing Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15 million deal. Why a team that will be lucky to finish .500 would commit that much money for that many years to a below average closer with a history of injuries is beyond me. Good closers barely even get three-year deals anymore and Lyon is not even close to a good closer. He may not even be a good set-up man. Seriously, the guy he set-up for last year, Fernando Rodney, didn’t even get as a good a deal as Lyon and his contract was probably a bad one. Good luck, Astros.

Fischman: I think the biggest waste of money was the Mets’ signing of Jason Bay. He’ll really help form the heart of New York’s batting order, but $66 million was far too much. Bay will hit 30 home runs and drive in over 100, but was he worth over $16 million per year? I say “no way.” Guys like Aubrey Huff (Giants) and Hideki Matsui (Angels) are on the older side and may contribute a lot less than their team expects from them, but neither were high-risk signings. Both of those guys were signed for one year. If they don’t work out, their teams have the luxury of simply not signing them next off-season.

Zach: Brandon Lyon, Houston. This one could get ugly. Someone buy Ed Wade a clue, Astros fans could use the help. At least the Dodgers didn’t go buy another bad contract (Pierre, Schmidt, Jones, Nomar, etc…)

Which prospect will make the biggest impact in 2010?

Morris: Jason Heyward is the obvious answer here, so we’ll take a bit of a different route. I think the prospect that will have the biggest impact this season is the prospect of a Yankees-Phillies repeat in the World Series. The Phillies essentially lost nothing while trading up by swapping Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay. The Yankees are the f’ing Yankees and should be just as good as they were last year. Assuming these two teams stay on pace for 100 wins all season (which they will), we’re going to hear endless, nauseating talk about a World Series repeat for these two teams. I’m tired of it already.

Port: Stephen Strasburg, whenever he starts tossing for the Washington Nationals. He’ll be the biggest thing to hit D.C. since Linda Tripp. I hope people still understand that reference.

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Wilson: Jason Heyward. Dude is a man. A manly man and he is going to run rampant in the NL East this year, giving the Braves the push they need to move back into contention in that division.

Fischman: Jason Heyward is going to be darn good and probably win Rookie of the Year, but as far as team impact goes, I’d have to say Stephen Strasburg. Once Strasburg is called up, Washington will still be bad, but personally, he’ll be lights out. If the Nats give Strasburg a good amount of time in the Majors in 2010, I think he’ll do really well and even take them out of last place. For a guy who throws so hard, he also has really impressive command.

Zach: Not counting Kyle Blanks, who I believe ate some other prospects, Jason Heyward. Guys is good and he’ll be up a full season. Oh, and I heard there’s this Strasburg kid around in case Heyward isn’t enough.

Who’s a prospect that not enough people are paying attention to right now?

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Morris: Justin Smoak, 1B in the Rangers organization. This guy was a 1st round a draft pick and is already on the fast track to be in Texas. Seeing as how Chris Davis sucks, and the Rangers will need some offensive pop with Josh Hamilton on and off the DL this year, I bet Smoak hits Arlington before the All Star Break. And when he does, no single player will have a bigger impact on clubhouse chemistry that Smoak. And I’m being literal here. How is Ron Washington going to hear the word “Smoak” and not switch from snorting the powder to smoking the rocks? Think about it…Washington will be completely inundated with words that remind him of coke/crack at all times when in the dugout: on the “bump”; between the “white lines”; just looking at Josh Hamilton. This is not going to end well.

Port: Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers. He’ll be hitting at the top of a potent lineup and was the big reason the Tigers were willing to part with Curtis Granderson. He’s had a big spring and should be among the rookie leaders in steals by season’s end. Sure, he had to leave New York City to live in Detroit, but he doesn’t have to deal with the Steinbrenners so I guess that’s a wash.

Wilson: Maybe it is just because I am in California, but there doesn’t seem to be much hype given to Brian Matusz right now while the rest of the baseball world is busy salivating for guys like Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman. But unlike those supposed future studs, Matusz is going to start the year in the majors and already seems to be a pretty polished prospect, so he could hit the ground running this year and make a name for himself very quickly.

Fischman: I’m going to go with Andrew Lambo from the Dodgers’ organization. I may be biased, because I’ve played with the guy, but he had a terrific Arizona Fall League and looked quite professional in Spring Training this year. Although the guy has never played in AAA and only a little bit in AA, he’s going to be a solid Major Leaguer in the near future. In two years, when Manny Ramirez will be gone, Andrew Lambo figures to start in a strong Los Angeles outfield. If Lambo can cut down on the strikeouts, watch out! This guy has such a sweet, lefty stroke.

Zach: Jesus Montero – the pseudo-catcher can flat out rake. You know Nick Johnson is getting hurt. Could a late season call up be in the cards?

What can you not live without during baseball season?

Morris: Hawk Harrelson. That was easy. You can put it on the board.

Port: Oxygen, but that applies year-round. I guess the biggest thing would be an unknown hitter emerging from obscurity and having a good season, especially after years of toiling in the minor leagues or being overlooked. Casey McGehee was like that last year, definitely. Oh, and I always like hearing Chip Caray use the word “fisted” seventeen times per game.

Wilson: Sunflower seeds. Even though I am almost thirty, I still can’t let go of my playing days back in high school and have to chew sunflower seeds whenever I watch a baseball game, and that happens on pretty much a nightly basis. If I don’t have them, it just isn’t the same and I get pretty irritable. On a related note, I imagine I soon literally won’t be able to live without high blood pressure medication since consuming all that salt can’t possibly be good for me.

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Fischman: I can’t live without the daily grind of baseball being played on the diamond. I love basketball and football, but those sports only play 3-4 and 1 game per week, respectively. With baseball, if your team has a bad game, there’s always the luxury of knowing your team can go back out there the next day (or the day after) and take care of business. Also, I just love the spring, at least in California. Hopefully, it doesn’t rain too much this April.

Zach: Keith Law ripping on people. It’s high entertainment. Although what am I to do now that Steve Phillips was fired by ESPN. I always wanted to get player analysis from one of baseball’s worst GMs. I hear Cam Bonifay might be available.

What’s the first series you’re excited to see for your team?

Morris: White Sox-Rangers at the end of April. It’ll be the first time I get to see the White Sox live this season, and then after that it’s back to scouring the MLB national TV schedule to see when they’re on in Texas. There is a good chance that Josh Hamilton will already be hurt, Ron Washington will be fired, and Nolan Ryan will have supplanted Brandon McCarthy in the Rangers’ rotation.

Port: I’m a Brewers fan living in Los Angeles, so I’m pumped for the May 4-6 series in Dodger Stadium. I’ll happily don my Brewers gear and my cheesehead hat and drink $10 beers while being bilingually heckled and cursed at by fans from the ages of 8 to 80. Best of all, I’ll bask in my moment of triumph when the uproarious crowd watches superstar Manny Ramirez flail at a Trevor Hoffman changeup and weakly ground out to end the game.

Wilson: There is almost too many to count with the Angels. A re-match with the Yankees? Facing Figgins and the allegedly reloaded Mariners? I’ve probably got to go with the Rangers, although I am not sure I can wait until they finally meet for the first time in mid-May (WTF?). Not only will it be the first time the Angels will face their former superstar Vladimir Guerrero, but it will also be their first series against a team that surprisingly challenged them for the division title last season and is poised to do so again this year.

Fischman: The Dodgers host the Giants in a weekend series on April 16th through the 18th. The series should be a really good one between two storied rivals. It will be the Dodgers’ second home series of the season and Clayton Kershaw figures to start the series finale on Sunday afternoon.

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Zach: May 17th – Kansas City Royals. The season doesn’t truly start until the Orioles play the Royals and Sam Horn blasts a few homers. Wait. What year is this?

Which AL team will be the biggest surprise/bust this season?

Morris:
White Sox will be the biggest surprise, and I’m not saying this because they are my favorite team. I’m saying it because they are not getting enough credit. The Sox have the best front 4 of any pitching rotation in the AL. They have a proven closer in Bobby Jenks and a badass in Matt Thornton in case Jenks jiggles his way out of the 9th inning role. They also have an offense that is suspect right now, but could prove very good. If Carlos Quentin plays 130-140 games, if Gordon Beckham makes typical second year improvement for a superstar prospect, and if Andruw Jones or Alex Rios (or both!) become productive hitters again, the White Sox will be really tough to beat.

Biggest disappointment will be the Royals to their fans because, seriously, how disappointing is it to enter every season knowing you have the best pitcher in the AL…and still have no shot to sniff even 4th place? Sorry K.C. (Biggest bust: Rangers.)

Port: By season’s end, the Texas Rangers will get almost as much respect as they did when Chuck Norris was still on TV. For the first time in a while, the pitching staff actually looks okay, and with that lineup they could make a big run late in the season.

Wilson: Everyone seems to think that the Mariners are going to be a big freaking deal this year with their additions of Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley. But guess what? They still can’t hit. If Milton Bradley is the best guy they can put in the middle of their order, then having Ichiro and Figgins getting on base in front of him isn’t going to matter much. There is a reason the Cubs wanted to get rid of Bradley so badly and it wasn’t just his attitude, it was because he also wasn’t very good.

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The biggest surprise in the American League actually shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Every major statistical projection system seems to think the Angels are going to finally crash and burn… just like they predict every year and once again, the Angels will defy the nerds and their fancy computers to win the AL West and contend for the World Series (not that I am biased or anything).

Fischman: The Red Sox will surprise a lot of people by hanging tough with the Yankees for much of the season. Although I feel that the Yankees will eventually prevail in the AL East, Boston’s starting rotation will do a lot of damage in 2010. John Lackey is going to be really good this season, and that’s an understatement.

I think the Angels will be the biggest bust in the AL, because they’ll greatly miss the contributions from last year’s ace, John Lackey, as well as the presence of the multi-talented Chone Figgins. The Angels still have lots of weapons, and they are always well-coached by Mike Scioscia, but I have a feeling that such turnover will hurt the team. Joel Pineiro will probably pitch decently, but I think he’ll have a harder time pitching in the American League than he did with St. Louis.

Zach: Minnesota I suppose. No team really screams like it’ll be that different. I don’t see the Twins repeating. And that was before Nathan went down with an injury. The Orioles should be slightly respectable, but still a distant 4th.

Which NL team will be the biggest surprise/bust this season?

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Morris: I’m hearing lots of good things about the Atlanta Braves this Spring, and I don’t follow the NL as much as I follow the AL, so I’ll go with the experts (which includes anyone not named Jay Mariotti) on this one. Jason Heyward is the obvious reason why people have hope, but the Braves have some young pitching ready to blossom too.

As for the biggest bust, I’m going with the Dodgers. Matt Kemp is distracted Rhianna, Manny Ramirez is off the juice, Chad Billingsley is more volatile than Dick Cheney at an Obama rally, and, oh yeah, their front office is in complete disarray. For anyone expecting a World Series team from this bunch, prepare to have that hope busted.

Port: The Cubs have a better roster than they did for their 97 win season back in 2008, so I think if the pitching holds up and they can stay healthy, the NL Central could be theirs. Likewise, the Cardinals aren’t great beyond the whole Pujols-Holliday thing and will probably disappoint a lot of people in 2010. I mean, when you’re leaning on Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny for wins, you know you have issues.

Wilson: The Dodgers may be coming off another division title, but since their owners were to busy screwing other people, they kind of screwed over the team and left them without any real upgrades, especially in their paper thin starting rotation. An injury or two to any of their starting pitchers and they could be in deep trouble and with Manny Ramirez no longer a guarantee to be a middle of the order monster, the Dodgers look to be in deep trouble in the increasingly competitive NL West.

As for surprises, I think the Braves are going to be a lot better than people think. They’ve got some great young talent and have blended it nicely with a mix of complementary veterans and I think it will help them challenge the Phillies in the NL East.

Fischman: The biggest surprise will be the Atlanta Braves. I realize that they have a talented team across the board, but I’ve chosen the Braves as my surprise team because many analysts don’t envision the Braves making the postseason.

The Mets are my biggest NL bust of 2010. I hate to say it, especially because New York has lots of exciting players, but my crystal ball says more injuries will afflict the poor Mets. Even without the crystal ball, it’s well known that Carlos Beltran will be sidelined at least a month, while Jose Reyes is still getting back into playing shape (thyroid condition).

Zach: New York Mets – they will actually fulfill some of the hype and not blow the season while playing the Marlins. Is has to happen one year, right? The Braves also look good, so they’re a decent runner-up. On the other hand, the Cubs look like they’re falling apart.

Division and Wild Card Predictions:

Morris:
AL EAST: Yankees
AL CENTRAL: White Sox
AL WEST: Angels
AL WILD CARD: Rays

NL EAST: Phillies
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals
NL WEST: Giants
NL WILD CARD: Braves

Port:
AL EAST: Yankees
AL CENTRAL: Twins
AL WEST: Angels
AL WILD CARD: Rangers

NL EAST: Phillies
NL CENTRAL: Cubs
NL WEST: Dodgers
NL WILD CARD: Rockies

Wilson:
AL EAST: Yankees
AL CENTRAL: Twins
AL WEST: Angels
AL WILD CARD: Red Sox

NL EAST: Phillies
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals
NL WEST: Giants
NL WILD CARD: Braves

Fischman:
AL EAST: Yankees
AL CENTRAL: Twins
AL WEST: Mariners
AL WILD CARD: Red Sox

NL EAST: Phillies
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals
NL WEST: Dodgers
NL WILD CARD: Braves

Zach:
AL EAST: Yankees
AL CENTRAL: White Sox
AL WEST: Angels
AL WILD CARD: Red Sox

NL EAST: Phillies
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals
NL WEST: Dodgers
NL WILD CARD: Mets!

NL CY YOUNG: Unanimous, Roy Halladay
AL CY YOUNG:
Morris: C.C Sabathia
Port: Jon Lester
Wilson: Felix Hernandez
Fischman: Zack Greinke
Zach: Jon Lester

NL MVP:
Morris: Albert Pujols
Port: Albert Pujols
Wilson: Albert Pujols
Fischman: Albert Pujols
Zach: Hanley Ramirez

AL MVP:

Morris: Evan Longoria
Port: Evan Longoria
Wilson: Kendry Morales
Fischman: Joe Mauer
Zach: Mark Teixeira

Check out The Gunaxin Show #11: On this week’s episode we’re talkin’ baseball. We give our preseason preview with special guest Dan Levy from On the DL podcast. We try and figure out who the big winners will be at the end of the season, who is not even close, and what the hell was that garbage bag wall in the now defunct Metrodome all about anyway?

The Gunaxin Show is classified as Explicit, so probably NSFW, unless you work here.


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