Friday, January 21, 2011

BD Hot Stove: The Phab Phour | Baseball Digest

BD Hot Stove: The Phab Phour | Baseball Digest

You could hear GMs around baseball shudder when they heard that Cliff Lee had signed a new free agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Suddenly the team that gone to back to back World Series in 2008-2009 and had won four straight NL East titles had put together a new top of the line rotation. 2010 CY Young winner Roy Halladay, 2008 CY Young winner Lee, career 150 game winner Roy Oswalt, and the still on the rise Cole Hamels forn the “City of Brotherly Love” invastion. Number five for the moment is flabby, but not too shabby, Joe Blanton.

I will be the first to to tell you “that’s why the games are played”, “it doesn’t matter how a team looks on paper” and so on. But that’s a pretty intimidating rotation to go up against. With a very productive lineup and a bullpen that has the potential to be capable, the Phillies could go far in 2011. But that’s not why we’re gathered here today. It’s time to take a look at what each team’s rotation will look like entering spring training.

AL East

Baltimore – Since the departure of Mike Mussina after the 2000 season, the Orioles have been searching for a new number one. They thought possibly they had found one in Erik Bedard, Adam Loewen, Matt Riley…all prospects that did not pan out for one reason or another. But the O’s do have some bright spots in their current set of prospects. Left-hander Brian Matusz will be joined by veteran Jeremy Guthrie, and fellow youngsters Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, and Chris Tillman. Top prospect Zach Britton could battle for the number five spot in the rotation.

Boston – The Red Sox have a formidable group of pitchers. The question will be whether or not some of them remain healthy and/or bounce back from a sub-par 2010. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka are the five for now with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield plugging in here and there. If they’re on, this could be one of the nastiest rotations in baseball.

New York – The Yankees are in a bit of a quandary right now as they await Andy Pettitte’s decision to retire or continue playing baseball. CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett are set. The final two spots are completely up in the air, with Sergio Mitre and prospect Ivan Nova pencilled in for now. If Pettitte returns and no other pitchers are brought in, the final spit will come down to Mitre, Nova, and any prospect who steps up.

Tampa Bay – With the departure of Matt Garza, the Rays have one less reliable starter they can count on. But this is still a highly competitive rotation anchored by stud David Price, who is in the midst of a meteoric rise in stature. James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and rookie Jeremy Hellickson round out the starting staff.

Toronto – The Blue Jays dealt their most reliable starter, Shaun Marcum, but have one of the top prospects in all of baseball in Kyle Drabek. With limited time spent in Triple-A though, Drabek may not yet be ready for prime time. He’ll have a chance to win a spot in a rotation that has Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Cecil as the only sure things to start the season. Jesse Litsch, coming back from hip surgery and Mike Rzepcynski will fight for spots as well.

AL Central

ClevelandFausto Carmona trade rumors have been heard often during this hot stove, but for now he’ll open as the number one man in the Indians rotation. He’ll be joined by fellow veteran Justin Masterson and kid Carlos Carrasco. The final two spots will between Mitch Talbot, Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, and anyone else who will toss their hat in the ring.

ChicagoMark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson. Manager Ozzie Guillen has a solid four he can count on in 2011. Then there’s Jake Peavy coming back from a detatched latissmus dorsi muscle that cost him the second half of the season. It’s unsure when he’ll be ready to go, so for now highly touted Chris Sale will probably get a look in the staff’s final opening.

Detroit – When you’ve got a stud like Justin Verlander at the top of your rotation it can set the tone for the rest of the staff. Manager Jim Leyland is counting on continued growth from youngsters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, and they’ll benefit from some words of wisdom from recently signed veteran Brad Penny. One time starter, Phil Coke gets a chance to leave the bullpen and pitch every fifth day again.

Kansas City – It wasn’t that long ago that the Royals looked like they were building a nice starting staff. Now, Zack Greinke has been dealt away and Gil Meche suffered shoulder injuries and retired. That leaves one time prospects Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, and Jeff Francis to bolster the rotation. Recently re-signed Bruce Chen has a spot locked up, which leaves Sean O’Sullivan and Vin Mazzaro to vie for the final spot.

Minnesota – The Twins brought back Carl Pavano, who along with Francisco Liriano, and Scott Baker form a nice triumvirate. Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Brian Duensing will pitch for the final two spots. No matter how it shakes out you know that this Ron Gardenhire led team will compete for the division crown.

AL West

Los Angeles – The Angels should be highly competitve in the west again now they have Dan Haren for a full season. He struggled for the Diamondbacks last year, but looked like his old self once he was sent northwest at the trade deadline. Jeff Weaver, Ervin Santana, and Joel Pineiro give the Halos a solid four to start the season. The Angels need to do something about the fifth spot though as Scott Kazmir has become unreliable. Hasinori Takahashi could be the guy to step up and take Kamzir’s spot in the rotation.

Oakland – The A’s have been about developing pitching under Billy Beane’s reign and the team has a nice collection of youngsters once again. Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Trevor Cahill will be joined by veteran Rich Harden. With Harden’s propensity to be injured, the A’s could look to Brandon McCarthy and others to fill in.

Seattle – The Mariners have the “King” of all baseball. Well, Felix “The King” Hernandez will be the incumbent AL CY Young winner entering the 2011 season. Unfortunately, after Hernandez the rest of the Mariners starting staff is a crap shoot. Jason Vargos and Doug Fister had decent seasons in 2010. The Mariners hope to finally get something out of Erik Bedard other than medical bills. Top prospect Michael Pineda, and journeymen David Pauley and Luke French will all get a shot at a starting spot.

Texas – They Rangers gave up a top hitting prospect in Justin Smoak to get Cliff Lee at the trade deadline and now have neither. What they do have is a rotation that manager Ron Washington hopes can replicate or better their 2010 performance. C.J. Wilson steps up to the number one spot with Lee gone, followed by Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter, and Derek Holland. Also in there? One time NL CY Young winner Brandon Webb, whom the Rangers hope is healthy and can recapture (most of) his glory.

NL East

You’ve heard enough about the Phillies already. Time to look at the competition.

Atlanta – The Braves are a team that have been developing top pitchers since the early 1990s. Times have changed and so have the Braves. Their top three – Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Jair Jurrjens all came from other organizations. Youngster Tommy Hanson has a spot and top 10 prospects Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, and Bobby Beachy should all get a shot at the final opening.

Florida – The Marlins have a bonafide stud in Josh Johnson, but the rest of the staff is patchwork. The team brought back Ricky Nolasco and signed free agent Javier Vazquez to join Anabel Sanchez, who had a career high 13 wins last year. Chris Volstad is the number five guy.

New York – The Mets staff is in disarray with Johan Santana not ready for opening day and Oliver Perez’s career in near complete demise. Mike Pelfrey reached his potential last year and will be the ace of the staff on opening day. The Mets also have plenty of promise in Jon Niese and hope that R.A. Dickey can repeat his remarkable 2010 season. Newly signed Chris Young, if healthy will get a spot with Jenrry Mejia, Chris Capuano, and Dillon Gee all getting long looks for the final spot out of spring training.

Washington – The prospect’s prospect Stephen Strasburg will be spending 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Until then the Nationals will count on Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, and Jordan Zimmerman to hold down the fort. The Nats hope Chien-Ming Wang has fully recovered from shoulder surgery that made him miss all of last year. Luis Atilano, John Lannan, and Yunesky Maya are among those who will vie for the back of the rotation.

NL Central

Chicago – The city of big shoulders needs to control the big shoulders of Carlos Zambrano. The man who may be certifiable settled down late in the season and the Cubbies need that trend to continue. Ryan Dempster and newly acquired Matt Garza are the two most consistent starters on the roster. Randy Wells and Carlos Silva will have the final spots for now with recently acquired prospect Chris Archer possibly having a second half impact.

Cincinnati – The Reds won’t surprise anyone this year, but with a staff of Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, and Mike Leake they’ll do just fine. The latter three will compete for the final two openings.

Houston – The days of Oswalt, Clemens, and Pettitte are now long gone. Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and J.A. Happ are a competitive top three on a team that won’t be too competitive. Bud Norris, Nelson Figueroa, Aneury Rodriguez, and Lance Pendleton will all get a look for the final two spots available.

Milwaukee - The Brewers have their best pitching rotation since CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets teamed for a short time in 2008. Holdover Yovani Gallardo is joined by trade acquisitions Shaun Marcum (TOR) and Zack Greinke (MIL) to form a super top three. Veteran Randy Wolf and journeyman Chris Narveson round things out. Top pitching prospect Mark Rogers could have an impact if his shoulder is healthy enough.

Pittsburgh – The Pirates have to get by on the cheap and 2011 is no different. James McDonald, Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, and Scott Olsen are the six pitchers for five spots.

St. LouisAdam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Not a bad way to kick off a season. They’ll be joined by second year man Jaime Garcia and veterans Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse. It’s the rotation that will compete with the Brewers and Reds for the tops in the division.

NL West

Arizona – The Diamondbacks are in a rebuilding phase and it shows looking in their selection of starters. Their top pitcher is veteran Joe Saunders, acquired in last season’s Dan Haren deal. Youngsters Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson were both acquired over the past two seasons in deals for veterans as well. Barry Enright, who had a suprise rookie season, and one time Pirates prospect Zach Duke complete the party of five.

Colorado - Ubaldo Jiminez and Jorge de la Rosa gives the team a rocky mountain high to face opponents. After that things aren’t quite so clear. Aaron Cook hopes to recapture his 2008 form while Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Hammel, Felipe Paulino, and Esmil Rogers try to figure the rest out.

Los Angeles – The Dodgers have assembled a six man rotation that can compete with the majority of teams in baseball. Who will be the odd man out among Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, John Garland, Hiroki Kuroda, and Vincente Padilla remains to be seen.

San Diego – The Padres pitching staff helped carry them for most of the season and they came oh so close to a division title. Mat Latos was the clear top gun last year, but can he repeat his success? Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer, Wade LeBlanc, and newly acquired Aaron Harang fill out the rest of the squad.

San Francisco – Pitching wins and the Giants pitching won the World Series last year. Ace Tim Lincecum hit some bumps in the road, but Matt Cain was as steady as can be. Lefty Jonathan Sanchez still has plenty of potential to achieve and second year man Madison Bumgarner comes in with a rotation spot sewn up for the first time. Even Barry Zito, much maligned since signing with the Giants prior to the 2007 season, showed glimpses last year of his prior greatness.

So there you have it. With veterans Freddy Garcia, Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Duchscherer, Mark Hendrickson, and Shawn Hill all still available things could still change. And every year one or two prospects busts out of spring training and heads north as a member of a 25-man squad. Who will it be this year? Stay tuned.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

The Reds and Johnny Cueto agreed to a four year, $27M extension. The team is said to be now discussing an extension with Edinson Volquez.

The Cardinals signed utility man Nick Punto to a one year deal.

Johnny Damon and the Rays are in talks, but the two sides are reportedly not close to a deal.

Texas Rangers beat man T.R. Sullivan hears the team is going after Manny Ramirez to be their new DH.

Dirk Hayhurst is popular on Twitter and has a best selling book. Now he’s employed again, signed by the Rays to a minor league deal.

The Mets signed pitcher Tim Byrdak to a minor league deal.

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