Sunday, March 14, 2004

MLB Preview #6: AL Central

Minnesota Twins

Shannon Stewart LF
Christian Guzman SS
Corey Koskie 3b
Matt LeCroy DH
Torii Hunter CF
Jacque Jones RF
Doug Mientkiewicz 1b
Joe Mauer C
Luis Rivas 2b
Brad Radke
Johan Santana
Kyle Lohse
Joe Mays
Rick Helling
Carlos Silva
Joe Nathan
Boof Bonser
Well, the lineup still doesn't look overly impressive. As bad as Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano were defensively, at least they could hit. Rivas and Guzman can't. They're fast with little baseball talent. Why? It looks like the Twins will continue to play pinball baseball in their dome - they still haven't added a single power hitter.
The rotation looks decent, at least. The Twins are finally giving their young guys (Santana especially) a chance. The AJ Pierzynski trade brings over Nathan and Bonser (yes, his name is "Boof"), two solid young starters.

Chicago White Sox

Aaron Rowand CF
Carlos Lee LF
Frank Thomas DH
Magglio Ordonez RF
Paul Konerko 1b
Jose Valentin SS
Joe Crede 3b
Miguel Olivo C
Willie Harris/Juan Uribe 2b
Mark Buehrle
Esteban Loaiza
John Garland
Scott Schoeneweis
Felix Diaz
John Rauch
Danny Wright
Good enough to finish near the top of a mediocre division. That's how it's been for the ChiSox, and that's how it looks like it will stay. Konerko won't have a God-awfule season like he did last year, and Crede is coming along, so they'll get a little more punch in their offense at least.
The rotation is decent, but not great. Buehrle had a bad year last year, but he'll bounce back. Schoeneweis was a spot starter for the Angels, but he should do fine joining the rotation as a #4 starter. The highlight of the White Sox is their setup men. Damaso Marte and Kelly Wunsch are lights out; they just have to hope Billy Koch doesn't blow too many saves for them.

Kansas City Royals

Aaron Guiel LF
Joe Randa 3b
Mike Sweeney 1b
Carlos Beltran CF
Juan Gonzalez RF
Ken Harvey DH
Benito Santiago C
Angel Berroa SS
Desi Relaford 2b
Brian Anderson
Derek May
Kevin Appier
Joe Gobble
Jeremy Affeldt
Chris George
Miguel Asencio
Runelvys Hernandez
This may be the best all-around lineup in the division - a combination of power and speed. Add Matt Stairs and the ubergeneric Kelly Stinnett and the Royals shouldn't have to worry about offense.
The Kansas City bullpen looks decent, with Mike MacDougal, Curt Leskanic, and Jason Grimsley on the back end. Grimsley, of course, is famous for being a former token "this guy's terrible so I'll give him as many appearances as possible" reliever under Mike Hargrove (he had one guy in that role every year). The rotation, unfortunately, looks a little thin, unless these young (semi-) unproven guys can prove something.

Cleveland Indians

Matt Lawton RF
Omar Vizquel SS
Jody Gerut LF
Milton Bradley CF
Travis Hafner DH/1b
Casey Blake 3b
Ben Broussard 1b/DH
Vic Martinez C
Ronnie Belliard 2b
CC Sabathia
Jason Davis
Clifford Lee
Jason Bere
Jake Westbrook
Jeremy Guthrie
Chad Durbin
Jason Stanford
Billy Traber
Brian Tallet
The Tribe's starting lineup looks a lot like last year's, but with a lot of great young talent, there will be more than a few revolving doors out there. Vic Martinez will be backed up by Josh Bard, a solid catcher in his own right. The Indians could easily trade Bard to a crappy team where he would start, but I'm personally pulling that we keep two good catchers (especially since Martinez may see a lot of time at 1b). Second base is wide open if Belliard slips up - John McDonald, Ricky Gutierrez, and the maligned Brandon Phillips are waiting in the wings. The Indians continue to be deep in the outfield, with Ryan Ludwick, Coco Crisp, Alex Escobar (Robbie Alomar trade), and super-prospect Grady Sizemore (Colon trade).
The rotation is stocked with young guys, and I'm only hoping that veterans like Bere and D'Amico aren't holding them back. The pen was great at times, ugly at others. The additions of Jose Jimenez (once pitched a no-hitter against Randy Johnson) and Scott Stewart, with Bob Wickman's return from injury, should strengthen the staff.

Detroit Tigers

Fernando Vina 2b
Pudge Rodriguez C
Carlos Pena 1b
Rondell White LF
Dmitri Young DH
Bobby Higginson RF
Eric Munson 3b
Carlos Guillen SS
Alex Sanchez CF
Jason Johnson
Mike Maroth
Nate Cornejo
Jeremy Bonderman
Nate Robertson
Call me crazy, but the lineup doesn't look too bad. Of course, that's by 1999 standards. The Tigers really need to focus on young prospects, on offense and on the pitching staff, if they really want to leave the basement any time soon.

Transaction Wire

Browns sign Jeff Garcia and DE Ebenezer Ekuban. Well, this probably spells the end of the Tim Couch era in Cleveland. The general thought around here is that it isn't Couch's fault that he never had a line in front of him. Garcia is mobile, but only weighs in at 195 lbs. Now, this means 1 of 3 things: 1. Garcia can run away when the OLine lets everyone by; 2. Garcia gets knocked the... well, you know the rest; 3. the Browns finally get smart and decide to get good offensive lineman (Faine was a great start but he can't do everything by himself). Now, it looks like the Browns may be leaning towards (3), as the hot rumor this week is that Cleveland plans to trade up to get their hands on Iowa OLineman Robert Gallery. Ekuban, who is lucky that he's a large man or else he'd have people ridicule him by saying "bah humbug!" every five seconds, is an underacheiving DE from Dallas. The Browns are already fairly deep at DLine, so this probably scratches Cleveland off the list for Darrell Campbell and Ced Hilliard.
Steelers sign Deuce Staley, release Amos Zeroue and DE Rodney Bailey, and deny interest in Tim Couch. At first, I thought the Deuce deal meant the end for Julius Jones playing there. However, Staley has been unimpressive at times, and the Steeler OLine in uncharacteristically weak. So, Julius would be a good fit as a backup in Pittsburgh. The release of a DE also may be good news for Darrell Campbell, who many expect to play DE in a 3-4 defense (which Pittsburgh's is).
Eagles re-sign Paul Grasmanis; Bengals release Jeff Burris. Maybe if Burris stopped trying to lead with his helmet, he'd get less concussions and neck injuries, and he'd be a little more desirable.
Giants sign Barry Sims and Shaun O'Hara, former OLinemen for the Browns. Well, either the Browns are stupid for letting these guys go, or the Giants' line was so bad, former Browns are actually an improvement.

I've posted a draft update here. For those of you unfamiliar with position numbering, 1 is pitcher (here, 1 is SP and 0 is RP to differentiate the two), 2 is catcher, 3 is 1b, 4 is 2b, 5 is 3b, 6 is SS, 7 LF, 8 CF, 9 RF. The salary cap is $120mil, but after the draft everyone should only have a team salary of $90mil.

The draft's been keeping me busy, but I'm glad to see it's going well. I'll have an ND weekend in review this week, start to take a look at the NFL draft, and also start writing down some more rules for KankaMatic baseball.