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Old 12-31-2011, 03:52 PM  
alnorth alnorth is offline
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2012 Kansas City Royals Repository Thread

2012 Slogan: Our Time

A better, more accurate 2012 Slogan: It is Finally Next Year
(from Great Expectations)

An alternative slogan if you don't like that one: Someone has to win this crappy division
(from alnorth)

With the beginning of a new year, it is time for the 2012 version of the Royals Repository Thread. We've got Hosmer, we've got a 2011-dominating Gordon, we've got Moose, we've got hopefully a killer bullpen, we've got a stereotypical slow slugging DH, we've got easily one of the best defensive shortstops in the AL, we've got a promising catcher in Salvador Perez. Hell, we've got offense and promising prospects galore.

We do not have starting pitching.

Oh yeah, we've also got this:



Get ready for, (as of January 2012 anyway), one of the most confusing puzzles of a baseball season in recent Royals history. Will they suck? Maybe, I don't know. Will we be given a year of 0.500 baseball? Possibly, I don't know. Will they win the division and go to the playoffs for the first time in 27 years? For the first time in a long time, it could happen, I don't know. 92 losses, 92 wins, or anything in between would not surprise a lot of us.

Everything goes here except Gameday threads and really big news. If a giant story breaks, the Royals achieve some awesome milestone, or we sign/lose a highly significant player/coach/mascot/whatever, then it might also deserve its own thread. This being Chiefs Planet, please do not clutter the board with new threads about trivial Royals news or you will only annoy those who come here for just Chiefs football. If you aren't sure and its not a Gameday thread, it goes here.

What sort of stuff often goes here? SPchief explained it well, so I'll just copy that:

Quote:
If you locate something of interest.. ANYTHING.. deals on apparel, best ways in/out of the stadium, giveaways, great stories from this season or from seasons gone by, rumors, trades, anything.... feel free to post it here.

Last edited by alnorth; 06-23-2012 at 11:54 PM..
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Old 01-27-2012, 05:05 PM   #616
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He's a nice security blanket to have if Soria doesn't turn back into the old Soria.
Holland and Coleman were both awesome last year
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:32 PM   #617
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cool, short, random feel-good story to get you through the winter.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/bl...f-another-kind
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:41 PM   #618
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cool, short, random feel-good story to get you through the winter.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/bl...f-another-kind
I think Frenchy is the kind of ballplayer we all would like to think we would have been like if we were given the chance
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:42 PM   #619
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Originally Posted by alnorth View Post
cool, short, random feel-good story to get you through the winter.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/bl...f-another-kind


That is ****ing awesome!
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Old 01-28-2012, 12:06 AM   #620
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From MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential:

Which reliever allowed the lowest percentage of inherited baserunners to score in 2011? (minimum 30 baserunners)

ANSWER: Greg Holland 6.1%
Yeah, Greg Holland whips ass.
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Old 01-28-2012, 10:48 AM   #621
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The Royals have invited the following minor leaguers to the major league camp for spring training:

LHP: Montgomery, Dwyer, Smith, Bueno, Hottovy

RHP: Odorizzi, Miner

C: Clark, Ramirez, Rodriguez

INF: Kouzmanoff, Falu, Abreu

OF: Myers, Orlando, Golson
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Old 01-28-2012, 01:08 PM   #622
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Interesting and kind of cool imo that DM and the Royals were even considered being included in this article... at the end.

Bud Selig bullish on more playoffs in '12


NEW YORK -- Commissioner Bud Selig expects baseball to expand its playoffs this season.

Players and owners have already agreed to add an additional wild-card team in each league but are still deciding whether it would take effect this year or in 2013. Selig said there are scheduling issues to be worked out -- once they are, the new 10-team format would begin with a one-game playoff.

"I really believe we'll have the wild card for 2012, this year," Selig said Friday night in Chicago at a White Sox fan festival. "Clubs really want it. I don't think I've ever seen an issue that the clubs want more than to have the extra wild card this year.

"We're working on dates right now. That'll all take place. It looks to me like we'll have it because I've told everybody we have to have it. It'll be exciting. One-game playoff, it will start the playoffs in a very exciting manner," he said.

A little more than two months before Opening Day, Major League Baseball hoped to put an end to uncertainty.

Add a bat or an arm to compete for that extra wild card? No telling whether that makes any sense.

"That's the last thing on my mind," Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta said this week. "I'm trying to win my division and I can't be concerned about that stuff. But the more the merrier.

"It gives us and everybody else a better chance to make the playoffs. But it's not on my mind because you don't build a system or build a team counting on the commissioner is going to change the playoff format," he said.

MLB and the players' association have reached a consensus that ties for division titles will be broken on the field under the new playoff format, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because a deal hadn't been finalized.

Since 1995, head-to-head record has been used to determine first place if both teams are going to the postseason. But with the start of a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card round, the sides agreed that the difference between first place and a wild-card berth is too important to decide with a formula, and a tiebreaker game would be played.

Negotiators plan to talk again next week and decide by March 1 on whether the extra round will begin this year.

"I think most clubs at this point no matter who you are are focused on trying to win a division," Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "If that doesn't work, then you make your adjustments."

Under the new format, whenever it begins, the non-division winners in each league with the two best records will be the wild cards, meaning a third-place team could for the first time win the World Series.

Being able to finish third and still go to the postseason could create more of an opportunity in the American League East for teams other than the rich New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, or in the AL West, where the two-time champion Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have spent big bucks to improve.

In the AL Central, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore watched Dombrowski add Prince Fielder to his already formidable batting order this week.

"We're focused on putting the best team on the field we can to compete to win the Central. That's the first goal," Moore said. "If that appears to be unattainable, we'll evaluate what we need to do to improve the team to continue to strive for that goal. If it becomes apparent that's not going to happen, you begin to focus on the wild card. You want to get in the playoffs any way you can and take your chances there."


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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Old 01-28-2012, 01:47 PM   #623
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Supposedly the Cardinals are close to signing Oswalt.

http://espn.go.com/boston/mlb/story/...cardinals-soon
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Old 01-28-2012, 02:15 PM   #624
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Old 01-28-2012, 02:24 PM   #625
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cool, short, random feel-good story to get you through the winter.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/bl...f-another-kind
Cool story. Hard not to like that guy.
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Old 01-28-2012, 06:03 PM   #626
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We're back with more divisional position rankings for 2012. You can scream, you can holler, you can protest and call me names. But just because I rated your player lower than you think he deserves doesn't mean I hate your team.

(Here are the NL East and NL West rankings.)

Catcher
1. Alex Avila, Tigers
2. Joe Mauer, Twins
3. Carlos Santana, Indians
4. Salvador Perez, Royals
5. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox

The AL Central might not be baseball's glamor division, but it may have three of the top five catchers in the game if Mauer bounces back from his injury-plagued campaign. Since we're not certain of his health, I'm going to give top billing to Avila, who had the best hitting numbers of any catcher outside of Mike Napoli and plays solid defense. I wouldn't be surprised if Santana explodes; with his power-and-walks combo, all he has to do is raise his average 30 points and he'll be one of the most valuable players in the game. Considering that his average on balls in play was .263, there is a good chance of that happening. Perez hit .331 in 39 games; OK, he won't do that again, but he doesn't turn 22 until May and puts the ball in play. There's no shame in being fifth in this group but that's where I have to place Pierzynski, who keeps rolling along and is now 36th on the all-time list for games caught.

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

In 2009, when Morneau played 135 games, he hit .274 AVG/.363 OBP/.516 SLG. Even if he replicates that line, he may rank only fourth. Konerko has hit a combined .306 with 70 home runs the past two seasons. He's 104 home runs from 500 but turns 36 in March, so he's probably four seasons away; not sure he'll hang on that long, but who knew he'd be this good at this age. If Hosmer improves his walk rate and defense and Konerko declines, Hosmer could climb past him. If it doesn't happen this year, it will happen next. The most similar batter to him at age 21: Eddie Murray.

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

Well, this isn't exactly a Robinson Cano/Dustin Pedroia/Ben Zobrist debate, is it? Kipnis' bat is a sure thing, as evidenced by his excellent play after his call-up (.272 average and .507 slugging in 36 games). His glove was once a question mark but now appears solid enough that he looks like a future All-Star to me. Can anybody explain what has happened to Beckham? He's second mostly by default; he's gone downhill since his superb rookie season in 2009 but is only 25, so there's hope that he'll find those skills again. Giavotella has some potential with the bat (.338/.390/.481 at Triple-A), which is more than you can say for Casilla and Santiago.

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

We'll go with the idea that Cabrera is Detroit's starting third baseman, although I predict he'll end up starting more games at designated hitter. Manager Jim Leyland will end up doing a lot of mixing of his lineups, but for this little exercise we have to choose a starter. Moustakas didn't tear up the league as a rookie and I worry about his ability to hit lefties (.191, homerless in 89 at-bats), but he showed more than fellow rookies Chisenhall and Morel. Valencia doesn't get on base enough and he rated poorly on defense in 2011. I hope he's at least good in the clubhouse. Morel was terrible all season and then exploded for eight of his 10 home runs in September and drew 15 walks after drawing just seven the previous five months. Maybe something clicked.

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

Peralta had the best 2011 season, but he's a difficult guy to project. He had an .804 OPS in 2008 but dropped to .691 in 2009. He had a .703 OPS in 2010 and then .823 in 2011. I just don't see a repeat season, at the plate or in the field. Cabrera didn't rate well on the defensive metrics, and after a strong start he wore down in the second half. Ramirez has turned into a nice player, with a good glove and some power, and he even draws a few walks now. Escobar is a true magician with the glove. Carroll is actually a useful player who gets on base (.356 career OBP), but he's pushed as an everyday shortstop and he'll be 38. He'll be issued the honorary Nick Punto locker in the Twins' clubhouse.

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

I'm not sure what to do here. After Gordon, I just get a headache. We'll pretend to believe in De Aza after his impressive stint in the majors (171 plate appearances, .329/.400/.920). He's hit in Triple-A for three seasons now, and while he's not going to post a .400 OBP again, he should be adequate. Revere is one of the fastest players in the majors, but he's all speed and defense; he hopes to grow up to be Brett Gardner, which isn't a bad thing, but he'll have to learn to get on base at a better clip. Brantley doesn't have one outstanding skill so he'll have to hit better than .266 to be anything more than a fourth outfielder; Duncan provides some right-handed pop as a platoon guy. The Tigers have Delmon Young, but I'll slot him at DH. That leaves supposed lefty masher Raburn and utility man Kelly to soak up at-bats; both had an OBP below .300 in 2011, although Raburn has hit better in the past.

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

I can't rate Sizemore any higher since he's played just 104 games over the past two seasons, and he hasn't had a big year since 2008. Rios was terrible in '09, OK in '10 and worse than terrible in '11. I'm not betting on him.

Right field
1. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians
2. Brennan Boesch, Tigers
3. Jeff Francoeur, Royals
4. Josh Willingham, Twins
5. Dayan Viciedo, White Sox

Choo would like to forget 2011, but there's no reason he shouldn't bounce back and play like he did in 2009 and 2010, when he was one of the 10 best position players in the AL. I don't expect Francoeur to deliver 71 extra-base hits again, but maybe he'll surprise us. Viciedo is apparently nicknamed "The Tank," which makes me wonder how much ground he can cover. He did improve his walk rate last season in the minors and turns 23 in March, so there's still room for more growth.

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

Has there been a bigger prospect disappointment than Young in the past decade? I mean, yes, there were complete busts like Brandon Wood and Andy Marte, but those guys had obvious holes in their games, while Young was viewed as a sure thing, a consensus No. 1 overall prospect. But his bat has never lived up to its billing. Other than one decent year in Minnesota, he has low OBPs and he clearly lacked range in the outfield. His career WAR on Baseball-Reference is minus-0.2 (1.6 on FanGraphs), meaning he's been worse than replacement level. He's just not that good, Tigers fans.

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

Masterson was better than Danks in 2011, and I do believe his improvement was real. He absolutely crushes right-handers -- they slugged an anemic .259 off him. Danks had two bad months but has the longer track record of success. Even in his "off year" he had a higher strikeout rate and lower walk rate than Masterson. If you want to argue about Hochevar versus Pavano, be my guest.

No. 2 starter
1. Doug Fister, Tigers
2. Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians
3. Gavin Floyd, White Sox
4. Francisco Liriano, Twins
5. Jonathan Sanchez, Royals

Yes, sign me up for the Doug Fister bandwagon club. Jimenez's fastball velocity was down a couple miles per hour last season but the positives are that his strikeout and walk rates were identical to 2010; he'll be better. Floyd isn't flashy but he's now made 30-plus starts four years in a row, and he'll become a very rich man when he becomes a free agent after this season. Sanchez won't have the luxury of pitching in San Francisco (and to eight-man NL lineups).

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

I could be underrating Baker, who was excellent last season, but only once in his career has he made 30 starts in a season. Tomlin's fans will disagree with this ranking, but he's a finesse guy who relies on the best control in baseball (21 walks in 26 starts). He's the kind of guy you root for, but the league seemed to figure him out as the season progressed.

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

Scouts still love Porcello's arm and I know he's just 23, but he's made 89 big league starts and shown no signs of getting better. His WHIP has increased each season and his strikeout rate remains one of the lowest in baseball. Paulino has an electric arm -- he averaged 95 mph on his fastball -- and is getting better. How could the Rockies give up on him after just 14 innings? How could the Astros trade him for Clint Barmes? Anyway, kudos to the Royals for buying low on the guy who may turn into their best starter. Peavy can't stay healthy. Lowe has led his league in starts three out of the past four seasons, but I'm not sure that's a good thing anymore. Blackburn is a poor man's Lowe, and I don't mean that in a good way.

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

Welcome to the AL Central crapshoot. Turner and Sale have the most upside, but one is a rookie and the other is converting from relief. Crow will also be given a shot at the rotation, but his difficulties against left-handed batters (.311 average allowed) don't bode well for that transition. Even if the artist formerly known as Carmona gets a visa, what do you have? A guy with a 5.01 ERA over the past four seasons. Duensing is another typical Twins pitcher, which means he at least throws strikes. His first full season in the rotation didn't go well, so of course the Twins brought in Marquis, yet another guy who doesn't strike anybody out.

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

Four good relievers plus Matt Capps. I do admit I'm a little perplexed by Perez, however. In 2009, he struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings. In 2010, that figure fell to 8.7 but he posted a pretty 1.71 ERA. In 2011, it was all the way down to 5.9, but without much improvement in his control. Perez blew only four saves but he did lose seven games. He survived thanks to a low .240 average on balls in play. He's an extreme fly-ball pitcher but didn't serve up many home runs. Bottom line: I'd be nervous.

Bullpen
1. Indians -- Vinnie Pestano, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Nick Hagadone
2. Royals -- Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Jose Mijares
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

If you're starting to think I'm not high on the Twins for this season, you would be correct.

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

I like the youthful exuberance of the Royals, plus the likelihood of improvement from the young players and the possibility of some midseason reinforcements from the minors. The depth of the bullpen will help bolster a shaky rotation, and this just feels like an organization that is finally starting to believe in itself. The Indians are riding last year's positive results and enter the season knowing they might get better production from Choo and Sizemore and full seasons from Kipnis and Chisenhall. I'm not knocking the Tigers here, but they do lack depth in the pitching staff and the pressure is on them.

The final tally
1. Tigers, 65 points
2. Royals, 55 points
3. Indians, 54 points
4. White Sox, 46 points
5. Twins, 35 points

No surprise here: The Tigers will be heavy favorites to win the division with a lineup that should score a ton of runs. I don't think it's a lock that they'll win -- Verlander, Avila, Peralta and Valverde will all be hard-pressed to repeat their 2011 campaigns, for example. But the Royals and Indians appear to have too many questions in the rotations, the White Sox have serious lineup issues, and the Twins have a beautiful ballpark to play their games in.



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Old 01-28-2012, 06:40 PM   #627
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Damn lew for a minute I thought maybe you wrote all that until I saw the link at the bottom. Was ready to give you kudos for your acumen.
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Old 01-28-2012, 06:43 PM   #628
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Screaming and hollaring.

Damn lew for a minute I thought maybe you wrote all that until I saw the link at the bottom. Was ready to give you kudos for your acumen.
I ain't got time for that shit! Just thought the rankings were a bit interesting and I didn't see it posted. Although it is hard to keep up with this thread during the work week, but I hope it wasn't posted already.
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Old 01-28-2012, 06:48 PM   #629
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Originally Posted by lewdog_5 View Post
I ain't got time for that shit! Just thought the rankings were a bit interesting and I didn't see it posted. Although it is hard to keep up with this thread during the work week, but I hope it wasn't posted already.
I know what you mean about time... and don't think it's been posted. If so, so what.
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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.

Catcher
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.

Shortstop
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.

Closer
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.

Bullpen
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.

Intangibles
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.


Summary:
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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