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Old 01-29-2012, 10:11 AM   #630
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Originally Posted by lewdog_5 View Post
Here's my take on this. Disagree in some key areas, mostly on pitching.

1. Mauer
2. Santana
3. Avila
4. Perez
5. The biggest dick in baseball

This ranking will look much different by the end of the season. Mauer will transition to being something other than a full-time catcher, but right now body of work demands he be at the top. Santana is a Victor Martinez clone. I'm not a believer in Avila, whose defense actually profiles as below-average and who had a very luck-driven 2011 offensive campaign. Perez passes him by year end, as IMO they put up similar offensive lines (.270/12-15) but Perez plays far superior defense. Pierzynski is not bad but brings up the bottom.

First base
1. Prince Fielder, Tigers
2. Paul Konerko, White Sox
3. Eric Hosmer, Royals
4. Justin Morneau, Twins
5. Matt LaPorta, Indians

No arguments with this ranking, though it wouldn't surprise me if Konerko outperforms Fielder (who is going to lose some HRs to the cavernous right field in Detroit).

Second base
1. Jason Kipnis, Indians
2. Gordon Beckham, White Sox
3. Johnny Giavotella, Royals
4. Alexi Casilla, Twins
5. Ramon Santiago, Tigers

This is a crap-shoot. Beckham has the tools to be the best overall guy, but can't seem to get it together.

Third base
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2. Mike Moustakas, Royals
3. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians
4. Danny Valencia, Twins
5. Brent Morel, White Sox

Another crap-shoot. Cabrera is in a league of his own offensively, but his defense is likely to be so bad (he was the second-worst everyday 3B in MLB in 2007 - five years and 50 pounds ago) I can't see him sticking at 3B throughout the season. Moustakas has by far the best potential of the rest of the group, and I think he has a good chance to avoid a sophomore slump. He worked through a lot of those struggles a season ago.

1. Cabrera, Indians
2. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox/Escobar, Royals
4. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers
5. Jamey Carroll, Twins

Cabrera's 2011 offensive output grants him the top spot. Ramirez is a nice offensive bat who doesn't hurt you (or significantly help you) defensively. Escobar's defense lands him in a tie with Ramirez, as long as he's league average at the plate for a SS, which he was a year ago. If he can turn into Elvis Andrus lite (.275/40 SB), he'll take sole possession of the two spot.

Left field
1. Alex Gordon, Royals
2. Alejandro De Aza, White Sox
3. Ben Revere, Twins
4. Michael Brantley/Shelley Duncan, Indians
5. Ryan Raburn/Don Kelly, Tigers

Gordon and then a bunch of crap. Some slap-hitting burners (Brantley/Revere, De Aza), some platoon-only guys. And a lot of BAD defense (Raburn/Kelly/Duncan).

Center field
1. Span, Twins
2. Sizemore, Indians
3. Jackson, Tigers
4. Lorenzo Cain, Royals
5. Alex Rios, White Sox

Span and Sizemore top Jackson because of history. Sizemore will likely get hurt and make this look bad, but Jackson is such a black hole on offense it's hard for me to put him at the top. Rios is the potential big mover... has the talent to bounce back (.270/20 would put you at the top of this field, and he's more than capable). Cain is intriguing. Will defend like Jackson. If he can hit (.275/10/.330/.425, which is not an absurd projection) he could be the top guy here.

Right field
1. Choo, Indians
2. Francouer, Royals
3. Boesch, Tigers
4. Willingham, Twins
5. Viciedo, White Sox

Choo is a clear top choice. Good all-around hitter who plays good D. But I'll take Jeff Francouer over the rest of the field. He's the best defender in the group, and even with some regression as a hitter likely produces similar totals as Boesch and Willingham. Viciedo has big potential as a hitter and could put himself into consideration for No. 2 if he delivers on it.

Designated hitter
1. Billy Butler, Royals
2. Travis Hafner, Indians
3. Ryan Doumit, Twins
4. Delmon Young, Tigers
5. Adam Dunn, White Sox

It's funny that Butler profiles better as a DH than as a 1B versus the division (though he'd slot into the same spot as Hosmer if still ranked as 1B, just a year after many though he was the worst of the first basemen in the division). Quite simply, Butler isn't a spectacular slugger, but his consistent .300/.360/.450 line is valuable.

No. 1 starter
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
2. John Danks, White Sox
3. Justin Masterson, Indians
4. Luke Hochevar, Royals
5. Carl Pavano, Twins

Can't argue much with this, though Hochevar will jump Masterson if all of Hoch's 2012 looks like the second half of his 2011 (when he threw the second-best slider in baseball). Side note: I predict a step back from Justin Verlander, to his pre-2011 numbers, and for him to be shelved at some point for a minor injury.

No. 2 starter
1. Jiminez, Indians
2. Floyd, White Sox
3t. Fister, Tigers/Liriano, Twins/Sanchez, Royals

I'd argue Jiminez is the Indians' true No. 1, but he's clearly the best - and has the best potential - of anyone in this group. Even with diminished velocity. Floyd's consistent results slot him No. 2. A number of note on Fister: .246 BABIP as a Tiger. I don't buy the sudden increase in his K rate as a Tiger and don't think it sustains a full season. And then you throw in the fact that he's an EXTREME groundball pitcher, with Miguel Cabrera at 3B, Prince Fielder at 1B, Peralta at SS... well, let's say I'm not a Fister-believer. He has big questions, as do Liriano and Sanchez. Fister is safer, but Liriano and Sanchez have much higher ceilings. So I rate all three the same.

No. 3 starter
1. Max Scherzer, Tigers
2. Scott Baker, Twins
3. Philip Humber, White Sox/Chen, Royals/Tomlin, Indians

I love Max. Especially compared to this group. Baker is the clear second guy in this tier, and Humber/Chen/Tomlin are all basically about the same. Humber's low BABIP in 2011 (.276) normalizes, and he becomes what Chen and Tomlin are: Solid No. 5 starters masquerading as No. 3s, getting by on deception/control.

No. 4 starter
1. Peavy, White Sox
2. Paulino, Royals
3. Lowe, Indians
4. Porcello, Tigers
5. Nick Blackburn, Twins

Peavy gets my top ranking because he will blow the rest of these guys away if healthy. If not healthy? Well, that's why he's slated as the White Sox No. 4. Paulino's stuff is electric, and if he can cut his walk rate to league average, he'll be the best of this bunch. Lowe is just a solid veteran. I don't get the Rick Porcello love. He doesn't strike guys out, he has gotten worse each year in the majors, and he's an extreme groundball pitcher with the worst infield defense in MLB behind him. I think his ERA crack 5 this season. Blackburn: JAG.

No. 5 starter
1t. Chris Sale, White Sox/Jacob Turner, Tigers/Aaron Crow/Danny Duffy, Royals/Fausto Carmona/David Huff/Jeanmar Gomez, Indians/Brian Duensing/Jason Marquis, Twins

How do you pick a top guy out of this bunch? Honestly, I'd take Danny Duffy and feel pretty good about his chances vs. the field. Sale and Crow fall into the same boat for me - guys who were outstanding as relievers but are not locks to be great starters. Turner is Rick Porcello 2.0, IMO. Carmona might not even be there. And the rest? Blech.

1. Jose Valverde, Tigers
2. Joakim Soria, Royals
3. Perez, Indians
4. Thornton, White Sox
5. Matt Capps, Twins

Tough to argue with this ranking, though I will predict Soria reclaims the top spot by year end. Valverde had a LOT of good luck in 2011 and worked out of a lot of jams. I think he pays for that in 2012. Perez, despite some weird trends, is still a proven closer who has succeeded in that role. That's more than can be said for Thornton. Capps is... well, he's ... yeah. I got nothing.

1. Royals -- Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Jose Mijares
2. Indians -- Vinnie Pestano, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Nick Hagadone
3. Tigers -- Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Al Alburquerque
4. White Sox -- Jesse Crain, Jason Frasor, Will Ohman, Addison Reed, Dylan Axelrod
5. Twins -- Glen Perkins, Alex Burnett, Anthony Swarzak, Kyle Waldrop, Lester Oliveros

Don't know how the Indians were ranked higher in the initial look. Royals are the best pen on paper, by FAR, even if Broxton is toast. Kelvin Herrera - who would instantly be the 8th inning guy for any of these teams (and probably close for the White Sox and Twins) is likely going to pitch sixth inning situations for the Royals. If Mijares provides the lefty-on-lefty weapon that was missing at times last year, this pen will be lights-out.

1. Royals
2. Indians
3. Tigers
4. White Sox
5. Twins

The Royals and Indians have youth on their sides, and seem to really enjoy playing together. I think the Tigers will be an interesting mix... I could see fingers pointed pretty quickly if things don't go their way (especially when 60 percent of the rotation is fielding-dependent. That's going to cause some frustrations). The White Sox have a guy who has never managed at any level in Robin Ventura, which is a frightening move, and the Twins have all their payroll tied up in Mauer (who isn't worth $20 million a year as a LF) and Morneau (who looks finished). Gotta be frustrating for the rest of the team to see your "money" guys not pull their weight.

I still come out with the Tigers as the favorites, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them stumble/disappoint. This is a very incomplete team: The defense is a significant concern, they don't have a leadoff hitter, and the offense is mostly average outside Cabrera and Fielder (with Peralta being the only real "plus" bat at any other position). Verlander reverting to normal form still makes him the top pitcher in the division, but at some point I think his heavy early workload (217 IP/year for the past six years) catches up to him a bit, too. With a less awesome Verlander, the Tigers will need Scherzer to step forward on the mound, and Young/Boesch/Peralta to really rake to make up for other deficiences.

I think the Royals and Indians both could make a move, if things break right and a few key young players break out. If either can find a way to get to 88 wins, I think they'll be right in the hunt for the division.
My take above.
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