Wednesday, March 26, 2008
An odd division in which the Cubs are the odds on favorite because of their cash. The Cardinals and Astros seemingly have garnered a bunch of roster holes while the Brewers need their pitching to stay healthy and their youth to lead them over the hump they couldn't quite get to last year.
1. Chicago Cubs
Another year another failure for the 2007 Cubs. This year after the addition of Fuku and the possible return of Kerry Wood to the pitching staff the Cubs will once again be amongst the National League favorites.
Key Player: Carlos Zambrano, Big Z guaranteed a Cy Young award last year. That didn't quite pan out. This year I haven't heard much from Big Z which is probably a good thing. Shut up, go on the mound every 5th day and dominate. Your team needs it.
Player to Eye: Kosuke Fukudome, I always have fun watching Japanese imports because they are such a crap shoot. They could turn into Ichiro and become superstars or Matsui and become a good player or Kazuo 'Anal Fissures' Matsui and become a bust for a few seasons. Really you have no idea what the transition is going to be.
Record Prediction: 90-72
2. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were the story of the NL Central for much of the season last year and then they quickly plummeted from grace. This season they will look for their youth (Prince, JJ, Sunglasses at Night, Weeks, Braun) to carry their offense while they hope that their rotation can stay solid and healthy. But with Capuano out for the year, Yovani already on the DL, and brittle Ben Sheets as your ace, is that a good thing to rely on?
Key Player: Ben Sheets, Ben Sheets is by far the most important person on the Brewers. The guy has ace stuff but can never stay healthy. Sheets has not pitched a full season since 2004 and now is as vital as any. With the injuries already seen in the Brewers rotation a trip to the DL for Sheets will devastate the Brewers season.
Player to Eye: Rickie Weeks, Rickie Weeks has been amongst the biggest teases of prospects in the league.
Record Prediction: 89-73
3. Houston Astros
The Astros were an ill advised division winner pick for me last year. This year no chance. The Astros have a solid lineup but after Roy Oswalt have no pitching I would remotely trust.
Key Player: Roy Oswalt, Over the past few seasons Oswalt has been in a slow but steady decline. With a team that has question marks in their starting rotation from 2-5 they really need Oswalt to return back to the form that made him amongst the top pitchers in MLB.
Player to Eye: Hunter Pence, If you don;t know the name Hunter Pence by now then you should start reading up. The 2007 rookie hit .322 with 17 HR in 456 at bats. In 2008 Pence will be a force surrounding himself with Berkman and Carlos Lee.
Record Prediction: 78 - 84
4. St. Louis Cardinals
It feels like ages ago that the Cardinals won the World Series but in reality it was only 2 seasons ago. This year the Cardinals could be in rough shape. Outside of Adam Wainwright who is not really a true ace the Cardinals have a ton of starting pitching question marks. They additionally have some holes to fill in the outfield. It could be a rough year in St. Louis.
Key Player: Albert Pujols, Pujols had an 'off' year last year which still put him amongst the best players in baseball. This year he comes into the year already with an injury. Will it effect him at all? It hasn't in the spring. But if he ever goes down the Cardinals are going to be miserable.
Player to Eye: Rick Ankiel, Rick is now the everyday centerfielder. Who saw that coming last year at this point. I've even seen some ridiculous predictions of him being a 40 HR contender. One things for certain he will be the biggest story in St. Louis all year.
Record Prediction: 75-87
5. Cincinnati Reds
Another season where the Reds have an outside chance to make an impact in the division yet another season where they probably do not have anywhere near enough pitching to do so.
Key Player: Bronson Arroyo, Arroyo came back to earth in 2007 after his superb 2006 year. Once again he will be the Reds #2 starter and they desperately need him to pitch well for the entirety of the season and not just flashes here and there.
Player to Eye: Johnny Cueto & Edison Volquez, Two young Dominicans thrust into the Reds opening day rotation, both have potential to become solid starters. Both could also completely shit the bed. The Red really could use one or both to pitch well for the entire season.
Record Prediction: 74-88
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Perhaps the Pirates should just be renamed the Basement Dwellers. Every year they seem to just suck. This season shouldn't be much different with their lineup not providing much to be enthused about and their pitching being just middle of the pack.
Key Player: Jason Bay, Jason Bay really shat the bed last season. I have no idea what happened to him last year but he certainly wasn't the force he has been in the past. If the Pirates don't want to finish in the basement than they need their best player not to suck.
Player to Eye: Ian Snell, Snell is a pitcher completely under the radar because he throws for the Basement Dwellars. Last year Snell threw over 200 innings had over 170 strikeouts and had a 3.76 era. Yet I bet you would have no idea if you weren't a fantasy freak or a Pirates fan.
Record Prediction: 67-95