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American League

Staff Writer Brad Atkinson

KJNL Dynasty Baseball League Season Preview – American League

 

**Disclaimer – All thoughts and analysis below are based on the knowledge, opinions and gut instinct of the KJNL Houston Astros GM (sometimes known as Brad Atkinson) and may be biased in many, many ways . . . if you are somehow offended by some of the material below feel free to stuff my e-mail/IM inbox full of hateful messages, but also expect anything you write to be part of future columns . . . bribes are accepted and flattery will get you everywhere, I’m totally for sale J **

 

Now that the legal jargon is out of the way, let’s get on with the meat shall we?

 

The preview will go as follows. As based on the rosters posted on kjnlbaseball.tripod.com I will show projected starting lineups (all batting positions, top 4 SP and top 3 RP) for each team, give a few thoughts on the methods the team is building its roster by (or at least how it appears), point out any obvious holes, list briefly any MLB ready MiLB players and give the ability for the team to function in the upcoming FA auction period. Then at the end I will make predictions for the playoff races based on my obviously limited expertise in the dynasty baseball realm. Then everyone will (or should) be able to comment on my comments and we can all get closer and more competitive as a league. Or it will all degenerate into an arguing free for all at which point we will all be happy that we live all across the country because the soaring gas prices make driving and or flying 1000 miles to beat someone’s ass totally stupid economically.

 

AL EAST

 

Boston Red Sox:

 

The Red Sox went with a quality, cheap team in the team draft and have supplemented with quality, cheap draft picks after that point, not a lot of trades, but one blockbuster with the Astros which the jury is still out on. They seem unable to settle on a SS as they have traded away both Tulowitzki and Tejada and currently have Renteria on the roster. It looks like he’ll be sticking.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Chris Iannetta

Colorado

1B

Adrian Gonzalez

San Diego

2B

Brian Roberts

Baltimore

SS

Edgar Renteria

Detroit

3B

Garrett Atkins

Colorado

OF

Matt Holliday

Colorado

OF

Brad Hawpe

Colorado

OF

Curtis Granderson

Detroit

Util

Gary Matthews Jr.

LA Angels

SP

Jeff Francis

Colorado

SP

Dan Haren

Arizona

SP

Bronson Arroyo

Cincinnati

SP

Derek Lowe

LA Dodgers

RP

Joe Nathan

Minnesota

RP

Closer

Colorado

RP

Bobby Howry

Chicago

 

Fuentes and Corpas are both on the roster, so the saves and holds for the Rockies are locked up here and Howry will definitely have some role in the back of the bullpen for Chicago. The lineup is impressive with many 5-6 category scorers. Solid veteran SP too, Haren could be an ace with his new team.

 

Obvious holes: Catcher!!! of a platoon is what it looks like here, and the 2nd half at that. Back of the rotation has good pitchers coming off of questionable years.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Gio Gonzalez may contribute for Oakland this year and Pridie should finally get his shot with Minnesota, but I am not sure either cracks the lineup on this team.

 

FA Projection: a total team salary of less than $60M means that the Red Sox poised to spend to acquire talent available in the FA market here in a couple of weeks. There are no huge holes to fill outside of catcher but this team COULD fill holes anywhere. The only limitation will be the talent available and the willingness of the GM to type in those big numbers.

 

Detroit Tigers:

 

The Tigers drafted the most expensive team out there kept their most quality bats and let the expensive pitching go with the exception of Mariano Rivera. Then to supplement that the GM decided to go the cheap, young player route, ending up with an eclectic mix of old Yankees with some young stars and developing players. I think that gives the team the boom or bust potential that is always associated with depending on youth.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Jorge Posada

New York (AL)

1B

Nick Swisher

Chicago (AL)

2B

Robinson Cano

New York (AL)

SS

Derek Jeter

New York (AL)

3B

Alex Rodriguez

New York (AL)

OF

Hideki Matsui

New York (AL)

OF

Nick Markakis

Baltimore

OF

Matt Kemp

Los Angeles (NL)

Util

MHM

??

SP

Eric Bedard

Seattle

SP

Matt Garza

Minnesota

SP

Micah Owings

Arizona

SP

MHM

??

RP

Mariano Rivera

New York (AL)

RP

Scott Shields

Los Angeles (AL)

RP

Joba Chamberlain

New York (AL)

 

The first appearance of the dreaded MHM, which stands for Many-Headed Monster is here with the Tigers. It is a little term I coined when there are 2 or more talented players set up for the same starting position and weekly match-ups or hot hands will be played. The MHM at Util consists of wonderkids Jason Kubel, Josh Fields, Casey Kotchmann and Carlos Quentin. I personally give the edge to Kubel . . . of course this supposes that Kemp is an everyday OF so that Swisher can be moved to 1B allowing Kotchmann to drop back into MHM status. The pitching MHM is Phillip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Adam Loewen . . . all should have starting jobs, but performances will vary. Joba starts off in the bullpen racking up holds.

 

Obvious Holes: Starting pitching behind Bedard, a true #1 and then a bunch of young question marks that go back about 6 pitchers deep. Everything else is solid through and through.

 

MLB ready MiLB: LaRoche could finally step up and take the Dodgers 3B job, but that would simply add to the MHM problem at Util for this team . . . everyone else should be a year or more away.

 

FA projection: $1.4M in cap room left and 80%+ of it devoted to 5 players. This team is a FA non-factor and it’s too bad, because they could use a good #2 SP.

 

 

Cleveland Indians:

 

The Indians went the Red Sox route . . . draft a young, cheap team with great talent and then trade the older players and draft to fill need. The Indians didn’t shy away from drafting/trading for the expensive players and then dealing them again. They are also putting out a lot of cap money in cash deals and coverage for 2008 so though their team salary is comparable to the Red Sox, their cap room is far less.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Texas

1B

Conor Jackson

Arizona

2B

Kelly Johnson

Atlanta

SS

Rafael Furcal

Los Angeles (NL)

3B

Mark Reynolds

Arizona

OF

Melky Cabrera

New York (AL)

OF

Chris Young

Arizona

OF

Justin Upton

Arizona

Util

Orlando Hudson

Arizona

SP

Brandon Webb

Arizona

SP

Chien Ming-Wang

New York (AL)

SP

Jake Peavy

San Diego

SP

Doug Davis

Arizona

RP

Jose Valverde

Houston

RP

Closer

Arizona

RP

Akinori Otsuka

Texas

 

This is a STRONG SP lineup. The Indians have 3 undisputed #1’s and Doug Davis who is an innings eater good for 10-12 wins and 150K’s. Both Lyon and Pena are on the roster so unless recently acquired Chad Qualls really impresses, saves and holds for Arizona are on board. The lineup is full of young, unproven players or old veterans with big question marks.

 

Obvious holes: Catcher, the talent is there in Salty, but how many AB’s will he get with Laird’s defense being a priority and his new idea to ignore 1B. It’s gutsy by the Indians to carry him as the only catcher in your whole system (Ramirez is behind Salty, Laird and Teagarden to get PT) when he might start the year at AAA. OF #3 – Justin Upton and Reggie Willits are not guaranteed AB’s this upcoming year. Also, Orlando Hudson is in the Util hole without much backup . . . Mike Lamb could be a significant contributor in this fantasy lineup . . . and that’s NOT a desirable situation outside of 20+ team leagues.

 

MLB Ready MiLB: Callaspo is now in KC I believe and may have a shot at a spot in the lineup, Tillman might factor into Baltimore’s suddenly goofy pitching situation.

 

FA projection: with nearly $28M in cap room and some big batting holes to fill look for the Indians to be MAJOR players in the FA market on the offensive side.

 

Toronto Blue Jays:

 

The Blue Jays are another of the “take a young, talented team” group paying their stars minimal salaries. They have supplemented their drafted team with quality, cheap player draftees and kept the core of the Brewers intact . . . I can’t name a single quality Brewers player that’s not still on the roster.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Johnny Estrada

Washington

1B

Prince Fielder

Milwaukee

2B

Rickie Weeks

Milwaukee

SS

JJ Hardy

Milwaukee

3B

Ryan Braun

Milwaukee

OF

Jeff Francoeur

Atlanta

OF

Bill Hall

Milwaukee

OF

Corey Hart

Milwaukee

Util

MHM

??

SP

Ben Sheets

Milwaukee

SP

Matt Cain

San Francisco

SP

Gil Meche

Kansas City

SP

Yovani Gallardo

Milwaukee

RP

Francisco Cordero

Cincinnati

RP

JJ Putz

Seattle

RP

Derrick Turnbow

Milwaukee

 

The MHM at Util consists of Dmitri Young, Jack Cust, Estrada and Corey Patterson. Estrada could be sharing time with LoDuca in Wash and Dmitri has to compete for playing time with a newly healthy Nick Johnson. Jack Cust has the biggest upside of these guys, but will it be another 350 AB season for him or will he get 500-550? In comparison though . . . for an MHM . . . that’s a pretty good selection of bats. This is a STRONG bullpen with CJ Wilson and Scott Linebrink also waiting in the wings. If Ben Sheets stays healthy this team could really contend, but if they lose him, I don’t see another #1 starter stepping up and his loss in numbers will truly hurt. Kind of sounds like the real Brewers!!

 

Obvious holes: Catcher, the LoDuca injury is promising for Estrada, but depending on injuries to fill starting spots is not a good way to manage a team, though Kurt Suzuki looks like a solid fill-in if promoted. Otherwise this is a SOLID team with mediocre SP depth behind injury prone starters.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Jair Jurrjens could crack the Atlanta starting rotation out of Spring Training and Rhadames Liz figure to contribute in Baltimore sometime this year. Kurt Suzuki will be the starting C in Oakland this year and has 200+ MLB AB . . . he should be on the MLB roster and would fill the one hole that this team has.

 

FA Projection: $37M in cap room but not many holes to fill. The Blue Jays might pick up a SP or a high quality Util bat, but mostly I would bet that they hold on to that cap room to pay those young Brewer bats as their salaries start to increase in the coming years

 

Bold AL East Prediction

 

I see this division as a race between the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. The Tigers have severe SP issues behind Bedard and no cap room to address them, while the Indians just have too many lineup holes. Both of the contenders still have major dollars to spend but the Blue Jays lineup is already set without spending those dollars (assuming Suzuki up from the minors and into the lineup for Estrada) so I think that they will win the division while the Red Sox should be a solid Wild Card team. The Tigers may have a shot at the Wild Card too.

 

 

AL WEST

 

Chicago White Sox:

 

The White Sox drafted an expensive team that has both young, cheap talent and the old, expensive kind too and kept a little of both. They seem to trade for quality and veterans despite costs and their cap room shows it.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Ramon Castro

New York (NL)

1B

Carlos Guillen

Detroit

2B

Ryan Theriot

Chicago (NL)

SS

Jose Reyes

New York (NL)

3B

Ryan Zimmerman

Washington

OF

Carlos Beltran

New York (NL)

OF

Pat Burrell

Philadelphia

OF

Juan Pierre

Los Angeles (NL)

Util

Troy Glaus

St. Louis

SP

Dontrelle Willis

Detroit

SP

Oliver Perez

New York (NL)

SP

Dustin McGowan

Toronto

SP

Kyle Kendrick

Philadelphia

RP

Billy Wagner

New York (NL)

RP

Takashi Saito

Los Angeles (NL)

RP

MHM

??

 

A solid lineup top to bottom for the White Sox is shown here. Dontrelle Willis going to Detroit hurts in the ERA, WHIP and K categories, but helps with Wins. And SP off the bench is solid with Kyle Lohse and Zack Grienke ready for this year and Josh Johnson for next year. The RP has two top closers at the top and a MHM at the holds position, which will be hard to predict, but should keep the numbers there solid. The ChiSox also have great speed/power combo bats in their lineup . . . David Wright would have fit great in this strategy, it’s hard to figure out why he isn’t still here.

 

Obvious Holes: Catcher, how many ABs will Castro lose to Schneider, that’s a big question for the only C in the whole organization. OF #3, Juan Pierre is not guaranteed a starting/non-platoon job with Andre Either pushing him for PT and all there is at OF to back him up is NO ONE.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Carlos Gomez should get a starting gig in Minnesota filling the above hole at 4th OF and taking DL bound Josh Johnson’s roster spot.

 

FA Projection: $6M in cap room should by them the C they need, if they bid judiciously. But they will not be a big player on the market.

 

Kansas City Royals:

 

The Royals took a cheap team, didn’t trade very much and supplemented with expensive talents through the draft. The first of the teams reviewed that took this tactic, at first glance it looks like it might work out very well.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Ivan Rodriguez

Detroit

1B

Adam LaRoche

Pittsburgh

2B

Freddy Sanchez

Pittsburgh

SS

Jack Wilson

Pittsburgh

3B

Jose Bautista

Pittsburgh

OF

Magglio Ordonez

Detroit

OF

Jason Bay

Pittsburgh

OF

Ken Griffey Jr.

Cincinnati

Util

Xavier Nady

Pittsburgh

SP

Barry Zito

San Francisco

SP

Ian Snell

Pittsburgh

SP

Tom Gorzelanny

Pittsburgh

SP

Ervin Santana

Los Angeles (AL)

RP

Francisco Rodriguez

Los Angeles (AL)

RP

Matt Capps

Pittsburgh

RP

Eric Gagne

Milwaukee

 

Nice bats, though most of them are getting old and expensive and the young ones aren’t that great with the exception of Jason Bay. The pitching has a chance to be excellent if Zito and Santana can bounce back from off years. The bullpen is amazing . . . but there is no one here to get any holds, not in the lineup and not on the bench. Depth is a MAJOR concern for this team, they are deep at the Catcher spot (Pudge, Ronny Paulino and C/OF Ryan Doutmit) and that’s about it. The bats off the bench are lead by Cesar Izturis and Nate McLouth, both of which may or may not have jobs. The Royals are also carrying the barest minimum of pitchers. 9 starting spots, 10 pitchers on the roster and one of them out for most of the year (Zumaya)

 

Obvious Holes: SS, Jack Wilson and Cesar Izturis are not exactly a confidence inspiring tandem. Overall MLB depth, if any of their big starting players are hurt, this team is going to FEEL IT!!

 

MLB ready MiLB: Nyjer Morgan, Brian Bixler, Chase Headley and Delwyn Young should all be given chances to be in the starting lineups on opening day, but not all of them are going to make it. Pearce is projected (I believe) for one more year in the minors before he is ready. Maybe this is where the Royals GM is counting on his depth coming from . . .  pitching is still going to be a problem though.

 

FA Projection: This team has $7M in cap room and needs a major upgrade in pitching depth. I think it would behoove them to be FA players . . .  I’m just not sure they can be outside of one semi-big signing.

 

Minnesota Twins:

 

The Twins drafted a mixed team much like the White Sox did. There is some young, cheap talent, some older and expensive. They supplemented their team with cheap bats and expensive pitching. They made very few trades, but were solid in the ones they did make.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Geovany Soto

Chicago (NL)

1B

Derrick Lee

Chicago (NL)

2B

Brandon Phillips

Cincinnati

SS

Khalil Greene

San Diego

3B

Aramis Ramirez

Chicago (NL)

OF

Alfonso Soriano

Chicago (NL)

OF

Ryan Church

New York (NL)

OF

MHM

??

Util

MHM

??

SP

Carlos Zambrano

Chicago (NL)

SP

John Smoltz

Atlanta

SP

Kelvim Escobar

Los Angeles (AL)

SP

Rich Hill

Chicago (NL)

RP

Carlos Marmol

Chicago (NL)

RP

Kerry Wood

Chicago (NL)

RP

Chris Sampson

Houston

 

Great bats are on this team until you get to the MHM’s. On OF #3 there could be Jacque Jones, Felix Pie or Andre Ethier, it all depends on who wins a full-time job coming out of spring. At Util add any 2nd place finisher for the OF spot to Kouzmanoff, and Mark DeRosa, though one of those two are probably the best bets since they should have full-time gigs. The starting staff on this team is amazing, besides the four listed above; Jeremy Bonderman, Jason Marquis and Joe Saunders are also on board as depth. Good thing too, with Escobar ailing and unsure of his availability for the first month of the season. The bullpen is questionable after Marmol. How will Wood fare? There are a lot of guys on this team that are competing for back end of the rotation spots and that may land in the bullpen, but those guys usually don’t rack up the holds or the saves.

 

Obvious Holes: Catcher, strong rookie, but no contingencies if he fails. Bullpen depth as stated above.

 

MLB ready MiLB: All of the players listed on the KJNL site are a ways away from being MLB ready . . . don’t look for any of them in 2008.

 

FA Projection: With $5.5M in cap room and a need for a good 3rd OF and bullpen help look for them to be selective on which players they bid on, and not to go too high when they do.

 

 

Seattle Mariners:

 

Another mixed team in this division, a well rounded some cheap, some expensive, all talented team was drafted and filled out with several trades and a couple of expensive draft picks. The MiLB system shown here is truly short, if it’s not a misprint then it’s obvious that this team dealt the future for the now . . . and their lineup proves that.

 

Projected Lineup

 

 

C

Russell Martin

Los Angeles (NL)

1B

Ryan Howard

Philadelphia

2B

Chase Utley

Philadelphia

SS

Jimmy Rollins

Philadelphia

3B

Chone Figgins

Los Angeles (AL)

OF

Carlos Lee

Houston

OF

Alex Rios

Toronto

OF

Raul Ibanez

Seattle

Util

Todd Helton

Colorado

SP

Brad Penny

Los Angeles (NL)

SP

Cole Hamels

Philadelphia

SP

John Maine

New York (NL)

SP

Jamie Moyer

Philadelphia

RP

Rafael Soriano

Atlanta

RP

Jeremy Accardo

Toronto

RP

Casey Janssen

Toronto

 

This team reads like a 10-team redraft league lineup rather than a 16-team dynasty league lineup. They are a little short in the depth department . . . Mark Teahen is the only bench bat, Accardo and Janssen will BOTH be set-up men behind BJ Ryan again this year and after Shawn Marcum I don’t see another starter to fill holes with. If this team stays healthy it should dominate the AL, if some injuries persist, there could be trouble . . . especially in the middle of the field, SP, 2B, SS, C.

 

Obvious holes: The Mariners bench could be better, but not many holes here.

 

MLB ready MiLB: Brian Wilson should be the closer in SF, solving the bullpen depth problem described above. Maloney and Sarfate both have a shot at making MLB lineups, one as a 5th starter in Cincy and the other as a bullpen guy in Baltimore. The rest are at least a year away.

 

FA Projection: The Mariners only have $6.5M in cap room, but I look for them to cut dead weight like Tom Gordon, Jose Mesa and Antonio Alfonseca and apply that additional $10M to some FA bench strength . . . especially in the batting category.

 

 

Bold AL West Prediction:

 

The Mariners should crush this division if they stay healthy and/or pick up some bench players. That’s all that needs to be said here.

 

 

Bold Overall AL Prediction:

 

The Mariners and the Blue Jays or Red Sox should win their divisions.

 

The other team of the Blue Jays and Red Sox should be a Wild Card with the last spot going to a race between the Tigers, White Sox and Twins. Mostly the Tigers and White Sox . . . and I see the White Sox pulling it out.

 

Predicted AL Playoff Seeds

#1 Mariners – Easily best in the league now, but using their strategy, how long can they maintain it?

#2 Blue Jays

#3 Red Sox

#4 White Sox