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Inside The Wheelhouse: 2010 AL East Preview

April 12, 2010 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Derek Jeter New York YankeesIt’s that time of year again where we look at the upcoming 2010 Major League Baseball season. Throughout the next couple of days I will preview every division in Major League Baseball then ending my blog series previewing the 2010 MLB Season by looking at the teams I see entering the playoffs this year and who will be World Champions when it’s all said & done. In this edition of my blog I will preview the AL East division.

AL East:

1. New York Yankees

I know it’s the homer pick to go for the New York Yankees as the top team in the AL East division this year. But how can you not say they are a favorite to win the AL East this season? This is literally the same exact team that won the championship in 2009 (minus Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera and Phil Coke). The same team that I feel got better with their additions during the offseason.

As I much as I love Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon it was time for the Yankees to get younger in their lineup. So the Yankees went out and traded top prospect Austin Jackson, reliever Phil Coke and other minor leaguers for All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson. Granderson provides a better arm in the outfield then Damon’s, more power at the plate and is a youngster at 28 years old. It was a good deal incase Damon didn’t resign, which ended up being the case.

Then to fill the other holes the Yankees brought back 1B/DH Nick Johnson to replace the Matsui void in the lineup and to give them a player with a high on base percentage (was 2nd in the NL in 2009 behind Albert Pujols). But the biggest deal the Yankees made this offseason is finally filling the major void in their rotation by trading fan favorite Melky Cabrera away for pitcher Javier Vazquez. Vazquez fills the void the Yankees had in 2009 in the rotation that was absent for most of the year as they dabbled with 4th & 5th starters between Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre. The Yankees rotation is very deep this season.

The biggest issues the Yankees will see this season will be how good new 5th starter Phil Hughes will end up being and how the age of the “core four” (Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera) will actually take into effect as the season goes on. Phil Hughes enters this season coming off of a year where he was mostly in the bullpen after June 1st and became the setup man in the 8th. Hughes was valued a couple years ago as the team’s #1 prospect and one of the top pitching prospects in all of Baseball. This could be the swan song for most likely two of the four players (Posada and Pettitte) especially even if they win another a Championship. Both are in or nearing their 40s right now and it will be interesting to see if their age affects their numbers this year.

2. Boston Red Sox

Flip a coin between the Yankees and Red Sox when it comes to who will win the AL East because that’s how good I think these two ball clubs will be in 2010. The Red Sox made the biggest splash in the free agent market this season by signing former Angels ace John Lackey to provide depth in their rotation at the #3 spot behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. The Red Sox rotation 1-5 (Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Dice-K & Buchholz) could be the best 1-5 starting rotation in all of Baseball.

The Red Sox also made other splashes in the free agent market this season by bringing Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro on to the team for the 2010 campaign. Beltre and Cameron provide great on base percentage and decent depth in the lineup while Marco Scutaro brings amazing defense at short & a pesky bat in an already good lineup. For a free agent market that was lacking greatly these three players would consider some of the elite available.

Red Sox brass went in a different route this year when it came to building a 2010 team. They wanted to put together great pitching and great defense on the field. They did that by the signings they did during the offseason. While they were able to successfully do that they created a potential different issue that Red Sox fans are definitely worrying about in 2010.

The Red Sox lineup will be under a microscope this season because the lineup does not have that one player that truly puts fear in the eyes of the opposing pitcher. For years the Red Sox had Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the core of their batting order to provide the power that was needed to make the score unreachable for the opposing team. They don’t have that anymore as Ortiz is getting older and the core of the lineup just doesn’t have that “pop” it once head. With that being said I would not be surprised if the Red Sox go out at the trade deadline and try to make another run at San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, especially if this team is not living up to expectations.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

Everybody is still hoping that this team can live up the team that we saw in 2008 and the expectations that people panned out for them for American League domination in 2009. I just don’t see that happening for the Tampa Bay Rays. This is a team similar to that of the Cleveland Indians (but not to their extent) that may be seeing the players that they thought would carry their franchise for a good portion of the next decade start to break down so early in their career.

Players like BJ Upton, James Shields and Matt Garza did not live up to expectations in 2009. Had they we may be discussing a different situation in 2009 as that Tampa Bay team could be right back in the playoffs. 2010 is a make or break year for those players while getting support from players they didn’t expect to pick up the slack from 2009 (Zobrist and Jason Bartlett). Should all the Rays players improve from 2009 in 2010, then there will be different story for this young and talented franchise.

What the Rays don’t have but what the Yankees and Red Sox do have is an actual ace in their rotation. For years people considered Scott Kazmir as that ace for Tampa but he didn’t live up to expectations and was often injured for them. People may now consider James Shields to be that ace but when you look at 2009 you have to wonder if he is considered ace material. While the Rays have a great young rotation, there is no anchor in that rotation. There is no “go to guy.” There is no ace. That creates a major problem for the Rays.

This could be the last season for a couple years where the Rays are considered competitive in the AL East. Franchise player Carl Crawford is in a contract year and there is a great chance he could be heading out because the Rays just can’t afford his services and as the Rays have gotten better over the last three years they don’t have those automatic #1 draft picks to be sitting in waiting to be brought up to the big leagues. Then you have to wonder whether or not BJ Upton will pick his game up and be a playmaker like people thought he was poised to be. This seriously could be it for the Rays for a little while as the team I have down in 4th in the AL East is starting to develop into a great young team similar to the Rays of 2008.

4. Baltimore Orioles

This team has potential for being the 2010 American League version of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays and be the sleeper team that comes out of no where to surprise everyone. It’s either that or the Orioles are just a couple seasons away from being a top 3 team competing with the Yankees & Red Sox in the AL East. This team is filled with future stars that can finally bring competitive Baseball back to the city of Baltimore.

Anyone who listens to me over on “The Wheelhouse”(www.wheelhouseradio.com) knows I have been a huge fan of Matt Wieters this year in Fantasy when it comes to the Catcher position. I really feel like this kid could be the 2nd coming of Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and am a great threat for the Orioles as well as my Fantasy Baseball team. The guy can hit for average, hit homeruns and drive in runs. He will be in the middle of a decent Orioles lineup and should see a ton of production in 2010.

This I also feel like will be the breakout year for outfielder Adam Jones. If you remember he was the main cornerstone for the Erik Bedard deal that sent him packing from Baltimore to Seattle some time ago. The kid was considered one of the top prospects in the game at the time has already been to one All-Star game (2009) and is looking like he will be there again for quite sometime. He reminds me a lot of what we were hoping to see from BJ Upton when he first debuted and can continue to be great player for years to come.

While I am excited to see what this Baltimore Orioles team can become with their youth you have to figure that their youth may also be a flaw as well. This Orioles team can be compared to other young teams in Major League Baseball (Reds, Giants and Royals) in what their team may one day achieve if all the prospects pan out to live up to the hype the scouts touted them for. But with that youth comes seasons where they need to learn and grow as a team.

That’s what I see happening for the Orioles in 2010. This team can win up to 80 games this year, while I will take the under on that, it literally could happen. While I don’t like them in 2010, I feel like a good 2010 campaign will make them an easier pick to be a top team in the AL Wild Card run in 2011. This is a team to keep your eye on.

5. Toronto Blue Jays

You trade away the best pitcher in all of Baseball and what do you expect? This is going to be a season filled with headaches for the Toronto Blue Jays as I consider them the worst team in the American League entering 2010. I’m sure this is not the way Cito Gaston thought his career as Blue Jays manager would end.

This is a team that is in a horrible rebuilding stage for its franchise right now. This team doesn’t look like they will be in the playoff hunt for most of this decade. There are really no star players on this team worth noting unless you’re a fan of Vernon Wells. While I did project Vernon Wells to have a bounce back year and capture the AL Comeback Player of the Year; I just don’t see him accomplishing a winning season with this Blue Jays ballclub.

The Blue Jays are lucky they have a good manager in Cito Gaston to at least give this team some guidance in his swan song of a career in 2010. He will do what he can with this team and try to make them at least competitive. If not competitive this team will learn how to become better ball players through their manager. Which Blue Jay fans hope leads them to success in about five years from now.

It’s going to be a long season in Toronto for Blue Jay fans. This team is not poised to do much of anything but hopefully break 60 wins in 2010. The Blue Jays can not even trade away former All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells in hopes of getting more prospects to their team due to his horrible contract in 2010 (he makes $20 million this season). If the Blue Jays decide to take on most of his contract in a deal with a team to get prospects then I can see that happening for this franchise. But for the time being this is the worst American League team ahead of the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians. Good luck this year Toronto.

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at www.blogtalkradio.com/thewheelhouse and at www.errorfm.com @ 2am ET/11pm PT

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site. There you can also download many different shows including “The Wheelhouse”, “24 on 24″ and “Lost: Smoke Monsters and You.”

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Inside The Wheelhouse – ALDS Preview

October 07, 2009 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Dustin PedroiaNow that we have covered the National League, now onto the American League with the ALDS preview. One of these four teams will have home field advantage in the World Series so the American League already has an advantage going into the Postseason.

The American League and the National League have traded the World Series trophy between the leagues the last couple of season. So if history should repeat itself all signs point to the World Series trophy returning to the American League. Even putting history aside you would have to figure that the favorites for the Championship come out of the American League. With three of the four teams holding some of the best records in Baseball it would appear on paper that this would be the more superior team so far this year.

ALDS:

Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels

Now this preview is being written by a Yankee fan. A Yankee fan that had to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees 8 straight times this season, plus two championships in the decade and watch the Angels defeat the Yankees in the ALDS for the better part of the decade. So to watch these two teams go at it again in the ALDS is a dream come true. As a Yankee fan I hope they beat each other up so badly in the ALDS that they can barely play in the ALCS to wait for the Yankees…enough of the Yankee fan mumbo jumbo and onto the series.

Despite rooting for pinstripes my entire life you have to give credit where credit is do when it comes to these two franchises. For a better part of the decade these two teams have dominated the American League at different points making the postseason most of the time with three championships between the both of them in the last seven years.

When you look at these two teams on paper it appears these two teams are very similar with certain edges for each squad. The Red Sox will more then likely be going with the trio of Beckett, Lester and Buchholz while the Angels will be putting the trio of Saunders, Lackey and Kazmir. You have two of the three Red Sox starters with minimal playoff experience while only one of the Angels starters (Kazmir) has minimal playoff experience.

Pitching wins championships and putting a young starter on the mound in a nationally televised game in the Postseason can be beneficial or nerve-racking. That’s where the bullpen’s come in and just like their starters both teams are evenly matched with more of the edge going to the Red Sox. Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard could become the K-Rod/Adam Wainwright household name at the end of the playoffs. They are the future of the bullpen and having Papelbon as your closer isn’t too shabby (what is this the 90s?) either.

The Angles on the other hand have Brian Fuentes, the same Brian Fuentes who blew a save not to long ago in Fenway. Back when the four letter network was sold that the Angels mentally could not play in Boston and for the most part they were right. The Red Sox for the last five years have been inside this Angels squad’s head and that will be the story TBS/ESPN/MLB Network and anyone else who considers themselves to be a Baseball analyst will harp on for this entire series. The LA Angels can either use that criticism to fuel their fire or let it get to their heads and let the Red Sox slip right into the ALCS.

What doesn’t get talked about a lot in Baseball circles is how different this Red Sox team looks compared to the first half of the season. They had heart; they were dominating the American League (and the Yankees) and were on top of the world looking like they would coast to the World Series. Then the 2nd half hit and they became a different team, lost 9 of 10 to New York and walked into the playoffs by losing to the Toronto Blue Jays.

If the Angels were playing the first half Red Sox I’d go with the Red Sox. But since the 2nd half this team has played flat and I feel like the Angels will be playing to get people to stop saying that they “fear the Red Sox.” The Angels will play well but this is Boston and its October.

The Red Sox morph into a different team every postseason and usually play better then they did all year. While the Terry Francona/Mike Scioscia matchup is appealing; the Angels will have a tough time getting this “rally monkey” off their back again in the ALDS. The Red Sox are in just more of a competitive division then the Angels and are used to the “big game” atmosphere. It’s going to be a great series, quite possibly edging out the Cards/Dodgers series as the potential best Divisional Series matchup, but as much as it pains me I like the Boston Red Sox in 5 games.

Prediction: Boston Red Sox win series 3-2

New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins

I told you in the beginning of the blog that I am a Yankee fan. If there is one sports franchise that I live and die with it is the New York Yankees. For the last couple years it has not been the greatest of times being a Yankee fan in October, especially last season. But for the first time in well a long time, I feel like this Yankee team may be the team to do it. 103 wins, an actual pitching rotation and hopefully 11 wins away from a championship.

But I digress from my Yankee homer banter to take a look at this five game set between the Yankees & Twins. The Yankees on paper clearly outmatch the Twins in every single category except hits off of a hefty trash bag. With that being said the Twins do have one thing going for them that we aren’t sure the Yankees have yet and that is the heart to win.

The Minnesota Twins are a team of who are you and you’re a major league ball player on their squad. The only noteable names on the roster that the everyday casual Baseball fan may know is Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau. That everyday casual Baseball fan doesn’t know Morneau is out for the season and then when that everyday casual Baseball fan finds out they are calling for a sweep by the Yankees. But I’m not writing this for the everyday casual Baseball fan and more importantly I’m sick of talking about everyday casual Baseball fan. Go back to watching Grey Anatomy!

Being the underdogs and being written out is what is going to motivate the Twins. They could either be the 2007 Colorado Rockies or the 2008 Chicago White Sox. The path they choose will be based in Game’s 1 & 2 as they face two reasons why the Yankees signed them in the offseason in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett.

As we will hear over and over again, pitching wins Championships. A solid rotation and a shut down bullpen is what will win Championships in October. Add that “kick” of a perfect lineup and you will be rolling down the streets of the town you represent covered in “tickertape.”

That pitching that wins Championships is where the Twins are lacking. As it appears when I write this on Tuesday night @ 11:30pm ET (for those keeping score at home), that the Twins will make Brian Duensing (a rookie who only became a starter at the end of the season making 9 career starts before Wednesday’s Game 1) the Game 1 starter while it appears Twins ace (and I say that term loosely because the guy could be a #2 at best but more then likely #3 starter for most clubs not named the Nationals) Scott Baker will be the Game 2 starter. The two pitchers that Twins are putting up against the Yankees will be taking on CC SABATHIA AND AJ BURNETT. You know the two most coveted pitchers in last season’s free agency? Yeah that doesn’t look good.

While the “bad news bears” offense of the Minnesota Twins led by future AL MVP Joe Mauer takes on the solid “front to back” (wait, what?) offense of the New York Yankees. Morneau is not in that lineup there is no protection for Mauer unless you think Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel or still solid replacements for the former AL MVP. Believe me they are not. Mauer is going into this series knowing that he is going to have to put on a memorable game after game…after game for the rest of the Postseason.

I will also go on record (and god I hope this doesn’t bite me in the ass) that Alex Rodriguez will have a very solid Postseason and when I mean solid, much better then any other Postseason he has ever played in. You know the numbers that show he choked (.200 BA, only hits homers when the Yanks are down by 5 with nobody on base) in the postseason since putting on pinstripes. A-Rod is on a mission from the Yankee gods to bring the 27th ring back to the Bronx.

With all those factors leading into this ALDS series I have got to my Yankee cap down off my head (while most of you don’t believe that I’m sure) and still say the Yankees will take this series. They have the offense, they have the pitching and they have the leadership to potentially reach the goal the Steinbrenners set every season (to fill the really expensive seats, I’m kidding its Goal #2) and bring home a Championship. Whether or not the Twins were playing the Yankees I respect and enjoy watching how well they have played to make it this far. That’s what will make them a team that won’t go down without a fight in the Postseason. But I will take my New York Yankees to defeat the Minnesota Twins in 4 games setting up what I’m predicting to be the “heart attack series” of the decade…again.

Prediction: Yankees win series 3-1

Let me know what you think of my picks for the ALDS! You can e-mail me at [email protected] or comment this blog! Check out The Wheelhouse every Sunday – Thursday LIVE @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at www.blogtalkradio.com/thewheelhouse or at http://wheelhouseradio.wordpress.com.

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at http://www.wheelhouseradio.wordpress.com

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