Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Dossier 3.0

"Showing you the way, leaving no doubt."

I'm more excited for fantasy baseball than I was for fantasy football...there's something you don't hear every day. However, I feel like the pool of players and the overall depth of really good young players has me giddy for Opening Day. Let's not waste any time and get into the theories I'm tossing around:

The Pay For Saves Theory:

Fantasy pundits have long shot down the whole notion of drafting closers in the early rounds because closers will be available once the season starts, and there are injury concerns, and blah blah blah. The fact is this: Right now, there are five legit closers who not only will help you with saves, but also ERA, WHIP, and Ks...
  1. Joakim Soria, KC- By far the best closer in baseball right now. He's young, lights out, and has no competition whatsoever...even Jonathan Papelbon will be pushed on by Daniel Bard. Speaking of which...
  2. Jonathan Papelbon, BOS- Ended '09 on probably the most negative note of his you honestly think he is going to let his reputation be completely besmirched due to one bad outing? I think he pitches with a giant chip on his shoulder (that, and wanting a long-term contract)
  3. Mariano Rivera, NYY- Wasn't he supposed to fade like five years ago...right after the '04 debacle? Well, here we are, and if you have a lead, you gotta go to Mo.
  4. Jonathan Broxton, LAD- Despite playing for LA, I'm not hearing a lot of "Broxton is a shut-down guy" like I thought I would be. He hasn't even come close to hitting his ceiling, and while LA may have somewhat of a down year (lack of starting pitching, but more so playing in probably the toughest division in baseball), Broxton will get at least 40 saves...and speaking of the NL West...
  5. Brian Wilson, SF- With Joe Nathan on the shelf, it leaves the door wide open for another closer to slip into the top 5. Enter Wilson. He's playing on a team that could make huge noise down the stretch, and more than likely will win 90 games. However, they don't have a ton of pop in their lineup, so the pitching will have a lot to do with their success. Wilson is as solid as they come, and due to his, and the Giants' still collective "under the radar" status, he will be able to continue to produce under somewhat anonymity.
My thinking is this: Why chance waiting for a closer to crop up when you can get a sure thing now? Drafting any one of these guys in the first six to seven rounds is a sound investment. After those five, you're looking at Brian Fuentes and, surprisingly, Andrew Bailey from Oakland being the only other "reliable" guys left. So this year, with question marks abound at the closer position, it may be wise to pick up a couple of the elite ones to assure some production there.

The Evan Longoria/Justin Upton Corollary:

In 2008, Evan Longoria barely played any time in the majors, and yet once he was about to be arbitration-ready, the Rays signed him to a six-year deal, with an option that could push it to nine years and $45 million. Justin Upton had a breakout year last year, and just received a six year deal worth a little over $50 million. Now while Longoria received his deal after just a couple of games, and Upton received his deal after almost a full season, I'm still thinking that Upton will be on the Longoria track of being really young, talented, rich, and having long-term stability. I'm not sure if we've seen the best of Upton yet, and he almost went for 25/25 in 138 games last year. He's a .300 hitter with everything...if you take him or Longoria at the end of the first round, rest assured that you will be seeing monster production that would justify a first round selection.

The Stockpiling of Young Arms Theory:

Here is something you can do once you start hitting the double-digit numbered rounds (or even before with guys like Lincecum, Grienke, Johnson, and Hanson). Let's use some #'s here to drive home how easy it actually is to build the second half of your pitching staff. Here are the pitchers you really need to keep an eye on come the 10th-11th rounds (average draft position in parentheses)
  1. Clayton Kershaw (111.1)
  2. Chad Billingsley (133.6)
  3. Jair Jurrjens (134.9)
  4. David Price (170.4)
  5. Clay Buchholz (170.9)
  6. Rick Porcello (186.0)
  7. Stephen Strasburg (200.5)
  8. Jonathan Sanchez (202.6)
  9. Aroldis Chapman (210.9)
  10. Brian Matusz (219.1)
A few things to note. First, Strasburg and Chapman have perhaps the biggest upside of anyone on this list, but they most likely will start off in the minors. Still, if you have space on your bench, those are two guys you absolutely want to keep around. Besides those two, you're almost guaranteed 15 wins, and in some cases (Kershaw and Sanchez most notably), close to 200 Ks. The reason I bring this up is that there is going to be options in the middle-to-late rounds that could really be beneficial to your staff, and that you don't necessarily have to break the bank to get an effective pitching group.

The Sneak In Jason Heyward Early In An Auction Draft Theory:

I, along with a great many I'm feeling, are intrigued with auction drafts. People have been doing these for years, but not since like two years ago has a platform, like ESPN (yeah I want to write for them, big woop, wanna fight about it?), brought it to the masses in a somewhat controlled environment. I love them actually. If you want to shoot the moon and get Pujols, Han-Ram, and A-Rod, you can absolutely make that happen. I think snake drafts create parity, while auction drafts create "chaotic parity." It's like "hey, so and so is in 5th place...but he has the top 5 guys in all of baseball, so I'm kind of concerned he'll sneak up on me via a trade or just them dominating." Very interesting indeed. So, getting to my original point. I've done a few of these, and what I'm noticing is that once you go through spring training, and the younger guys are just killing it, there's only so long when they will be "unknown" to the vast majority. Heyward is my prime example because I wanted him really bad back when the drafts were just kicking off...and now I'm feeling like a lot more people are sharing my enthusiasm about him. Anyway, the reason I'm thinking this might work is that in the beginning of these drafts, everyone starts off with the same amount of money. Obviously, as the picks progress, the financial disparity will become a lot clearer, and once you really get down to the nitty gritty, I've noticed there's always one or two guys who have "out-foxed" us all by waiting until everyone had no money, then dominating the sleepers towards the end of the draft. I do not like these people because, quite frankly, they're much more cleaver than I am...and I'll be damned if I'm out-cleavered. When you nominate a guy like Heyward early, you make people think a lot more about their long term answers than their immediates. The first few picks are not meant to be the sleepers, they are reserved for the stars. So, people will think stars...yet sneak Heyward in early, get him for five bucks, and it's a done deal. You wait too long, he'll go $10 easy. So, Heyward, or any major sleeper (outside of Strasburg, because he will start a bidding war regardless of where he goes) you want, throw them out super early...I feel like this is a winner, and hopefully this one is too (and...


The After You Get Your Major Sleeper, Nominate Everyone You Hate Or Think Is Wildly Overpriced Theory:

This is just human nature to me...that's what I tell them. Anyway, have everyone fill their spots and spend their money on guys you don't want whatsoever. Sure, in the later rounds, once everyone's money gets low, and they only have to fill two positions, this won't work, and you'll end up with a guy you don't want. However, in the first round of every draft, it's always Derek Jeter. I was going to call this "The Derek Jeter Theory," but I want to include everyone in this...even those despicable Yankee fans (gotcha!). So, even though Jeter is a fantastic player (miraculously by the way, simple physics point to him also declining five years ago), it is against ever fiber of my being to have him on my team. I can't...I won't. Think about it like this...if you're a giant Imperial Force backer, despite Boba Fett being everything that represents everything in the Star Wars Universe, you can't have him on your team...but you can have a figurine of him, or a '95 Jeter rookie card...signed (and authenticated!). So, get all those guys you can't stand out there right away, eat into other budgets, and, hopefully, you get street value on your guys and not new Natick Mall prices (whoooaaaa I so did!).

The Down On Philly Theory:

I'm not down on the team's production as a whole, but I'm down on everyone's individual stats. There is a chance that almost everyone in that lineup and coming off the mound had peak years in the last year or two. It's almost like there is no room for any up-kick in their numbers. Think about it...Utley, Howard, Rollins, Ibanez, long can they keep this up for? Same goes on the mound. Halladay, Hamels, and Lidge...I'm pretty sure we've seen the best from them as well. While I'm not saying that these guys will not have good numbers, it is completely unreasonable to expect that they all come through like they have been doing. If two guys could possibly make a rise, it will be Werth and Victorino...we may not have seen the best from them. Again, all of these guys are pretty solid, but for the most part, I can't see any of them hitting their lofty projections.

So there are a few theories to start off with. Next, here are the top ten players at each position, along with their ADP so you can kind of tell when each will be coming off the board:

  1. Joe Mauer (C/DH), MIN (12.6)
  2. Victor Martinez (C/1B), BOS (47.4)
  3. Matt Wieters, BAL (89.4)
  4. Brian McCann, ATL (43.9)
  5. Miguel Montero, ARI (143.0)
  6. Russell Martin, LAD (211.8)
  7. Ryan Doumit, PIT (188.1)
  8. Mike Napoli, LAA (213.5)
  9. Jorge Posada, NYY (145.5)
  10. Yadier Molina, STL (182.6)
Sleepers: Buster Posey, SF (260.0); Carlos Santana, CLE (260.0)

First Basemen:
  1. Albert Pujols, STL (1.1)
  2. Prince Fielder, MIL (7.2)
  3. Mark Teixeira, NYY (10.6)
  4. Miguel Cabrera, DET (11.8)
  5. Ryan Howard, PHI (13.2)
  6. Joey Votto, CIN (41.4)
  7. Adrian Gonzalez, SD (27.9)
  8. Kendry Morales, LAA (59.8)
  9. Derrek Lee, CHC (80.7)
  10. Justin Morneau, MIN (47.7)
Sleepers: Chris Davis, TEX (145.5); Garrett Jones (1B/OF), PIT (207.1); Justin Smoak, TEX (260.0)

Second Basemen:
  1. Chase Utley, PHI (5.9)
  2. Brian Roberts, BAL (42.4)
  3. Ian Kinsler, TEX (24.2)
  4. Dustin Pedroia, BOS (32.4)
  5. Robinson Cano, NYY (32.3)
  6. Ben Zobrist (2B/RF), TB (64.2)
  7. Aaron Hill, TOR (73.2)
  8. Brandon Phillips, CIN (44.5)
  9. Dan Uggla, FLA (111.2)
  10. Placido Polanco, PHI (186.7)
Sleepers: Casey McGehee (2B/3B), MIL (216.1); Scott Sizemore, DET (221.5)

Third Basemen:
  1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY (3.2)
  2. Evan Longoria, TB (13.4)
  3. Pablo Sandoval (3B/1B), SF (34.9)
  4. Ryan Zimmerman, WSH (32.9)
  5. David Wright, NYM (15.1)
  6. Kevin Youkilis (3B/1B), BOS (38.6)
  7. Gordon Beckham (3B/2B), CWS (87.6)
  8. Mark Reynolds, ARI (45.5)
  9. Chone Figgins, SEA (72.5)
  10. Aramis Ramirez, CHC (56.0)
Sleepers: Jorge Cantu (3B/1B), FLA (159.8); Kevin Kouzmanoff, OAK (236.3); Pedro Alvarez, PIT (260.0)

  1. Hanley Ramirez, FLA (2.4)
  2. Troy Tulowitzki, COL (20.8)
  3. Derek Jeter, NYY (25.4)
  4. Elvis Andrus, TEX (94.8)
  5. Jimmy Rollins, PHI (28.6)
  6. Yunel Escobar, ATL (132.2)
  7. Stephen Drew, ARI (110.1)
  8. Alcides Escobar, MIL (175.7)
  9. Erick Aybar, LAA (155.1)
  10. Alexei Ramirez, CWS (130.4)
Sleepers: Everth Cabrera, SD (222.5); Ryan Theriot, CHC (207.7)

Outfielders (overall OF rank by name):

Left Field:
  1. Ryan Braun (1), MIL (4.6)
  2. Carl Crawford (5), TB (10.8)
  3. Matt Holliday (7), STL (21.3)
  4. Jason Bay (9), NYM (45.4)
  5. Adam Lind (LF/DH) (10), TOR (42.9)
  6. Johnny Damon (17), DET (96.1)
  7. Carlos Quentin (18), CWS (99.5)
  8. Manny Ramirez (22), LAD (85.1)
  9. Carlos Lee (24), HOU (56.9)
  10. Raul Ibanez (26), PHI (103.7)
Sleepers: Nolan Reimold, BAL (155.3); Matt LaPorta (LF/1B), CLE (225.5)

Center Field:
  1. Matt Kemp (3), LAD (8.8)
  2. Jacoby Ellsbury (CF/LF) (4), BOS (20.8)
  3. Grady Sizemore, (8) CLE (31.7)
  4. B.J. Upton (11), TB (48.6)
  5. Adam Jones (13), BAL (69.8)
  6. Shane Victorino (16), PHI (76.0)
  7. Curtis Granderson (19), NYY (57.0)
  8. Andrew McCutchen (23), PIT (87.1)
  9. Carlos Beltran (25), NYM (116.4)
  10. Franklin Guiterrez (27), SEA (158.4)
Sleepers: Cody Ross (CF/RF), FLA (200.9); Drew Stubbs, CIN (260.0)

Right Field:
  1. Juston Upton (2), ARI (18.3)
  2. Jayson Werth (6), PHI (42.4)
  3. Ichiro Suzuki (12), SEA (28.0)
  4. Nelson Cruz (14), TEX (65.4)
  5. Nick Markakis (15), BAL (62.3)
  6. Shin-Soo Choo (RF/LF) (20), CLE (75.8)
  7. Jason Heyward (21), ATL (164.9)
  8. Andre Ethier (28), LAD (59.0)
  9. Jay Bruce (29), CIN (105.6)
  10. Jason Kubel (LF/RF/DH) (30), MIN (134.2)
Sleepers: Kyle Blanks, SD (220.7), Elijah Dukes (260.0)


Starting Pitchers:
  1. Tim Lincecum (1), SF (9.7)
  2. Felix Hernandez (2), SEA (19.6)
  3. CC Sabathia (3), NYY (21.9)
  4. Zack Grienke (4), KC (25.5)
  5. Roy Halladay (5), PHI (12.7)
  6. Jon Lester (6), BOS (39.5)
  7. Johan Santana (8), NYM (51.1)
  8. Dan Haren (10), ARI (32.8)
  9. Josh Johnson (11), FLA (75.1)
  10. Cliff Lee (14), SEA (43.7)
  11. Yovani Gallardo (15), MIL (65.0)
  12. Chris Carpenter (16), STL (54.9)
  13. Adam Wainwright (17), STL (43.9)
  14. Justin Verlander (18), DET (44.3)
  15. Clayton Kershaw (21), LAD (111.2)
  16. Tommy Hanson (22), ATL (76.3)
  17. Brandon Webb (23), ARI (89.0)
  18. Josh Beckett (26), BOS (67.0)
  19. Jair Jurrjens (27), ATL (135.0)
  20. Jake Peavy (28), CWS (99.7)
  21. Wandy Rodriguez (29), HOU (108.5)
  22. Javier Vazquez (31), NYY (69.2)
  23. Chad Billingsley (32), LAD (133.6)
  24. Matt Cain (34), SF (91.9)
  25. Ubaldo Jimenez (35) (97.6)
  26. Ricky Nolasco (36), FLA (91.1)
  27. Clay Buchholz (37), BOS (171.1)
  28. Matt Garza (38), TB (138.8)
  29. David Price (39), TB (170.4)
  30. Cole Hamels (40), PHI (93.8)
Sleepers: Rick Porcello, DET (186.0); Jonathan Sanchez, SF (202.5); Aroldis Chapman, CIN (211.0); Brian Matusz, BAL (218.9)

Relief Pitchers:
  1. Joakim Soria (7), KC (86.0)
  2. Jonathan Papelbon (9), BOS (77.2)
  3. Mariano Rivera (12). NYY (56.9)
  4. Jonathan Broxton (13), LAD (59.9)
  5. Brian Wilson (19), SF (119.9)
  6. Brian Fuentes (20), LAA (158.5)
  7. Andrew Bailey (24), OAK (103.5)
  8. Francisco Rodriguez (25), NYM (86.4)
  9. Heath Bell (30), SD (105.8)
  10. Francisco Cordero (33) (109.8)
Sleepers: David Aardsma, SEA (179.2), Neftali Feliz, TEX (222.1)

Designated Hitters:
  1. David Ortiz, BOS (168.6)
  2. Hideki Matsui, LAA (173.6)
  3. Vladimir Guerrero, TEX (157.3)
  4. Jim Thome, MIN (260.0)
  5. Andruw Jones, CWS (260.0)
  6. Ken Griffey, Jr., SEA (260.0)
  7. Travis Hafner, CLE (260.0)
  8. Pat Burrell, TB (260.0)
  9. Mike Sweeney, SEA (260.0)
  10. Mike Jacobs, NYM (260.0)

So, we have the position ranks in place. Now, I'm going to show you what my ideal roster is looking like based on ADP, position eligibility, and the roster size based on ESPN's game (hypothetical round taken in parentheses)...

The "Dream Team"

C- Matt Wieters (9th)
1B- Prince Fielder (1st)
2B- Dan Uggla (14th)
3B- Evan Longoria (2nd)
SS- Elvis Andrus (11th)
1B/3B- Joey Votto (5th)
2B/SS- Alcides Escobar (19th)
OF- Jacoby Ellsbury (3rd)
OF- Jayson Werth (4th)
OF- Shane Victorino (8th)
OF- Jason Heyward (15th)
OF- Kyle Blanks (23rd)
UTIL- Gordon Beckham (10th)
BN- Matt LaPorta (25th)

P- Joakim Soria (6th)
P- Josh Johnson (7th)
P- Clayton Kershaw (12th)
P- Brian Wilson (13th)
P- Brian Fuentes (16th)
P- Clay Buchholz (17th)
P- David Price (18th)
P- Rick Porcello (20th)
P- Brian Matusz (22nd)
BN- Stephen Strasburg (21st)
BN- Aroldis Chapman (24th)

Sure, there are some stretches here, but all and all, very realistic...and very potent as well. You have to center your offense around a "bopper" in my opinion. Having a guy you know will go for 40/100 is a must, which is why Prince Fielder is pretty much my first round pick in every single draft (this is of course assuming that Pujols, Hanley, and Braun are off the board). The power continues with Longoria, Werth, Votto, and Uggla. From those four, I'm relying on three of them going for at least 30 homers. I then go to the next extreme and go for the real, real fast guys. Jacoby, Victorino, Andrus, and Escobar will all hover around 35 steals, with Jacoby and Andrus going for 50 or more. I'm feeling like all the speed and power that I've collected will hedge my bet on future production (Wieters, Heyward, Beckham, Blanks, and LaPorta). The reason I continue to be so huge on Heyward is that the Braves will have to score runs somehow, and outside of McCann and McClouth, there really isn't a whole lot going on there. He's going to start on Opening Day as well, so you won't have to worry about whether or not he'll play this year...oh, he'll play. In regards to Wieters and Beckham, they have already made impacts in the majors, so expecting both to have breakout years seems to make sense. Beckham is an extremely attractive option once we get about two weeks into the season. Right now, he's only eligible at third, but he is slated to be the White Sox' starting second baseman, meaning he will gain eligibility at both third and second, a very rare combo.

Next, the pitching staff. You need an "ace," and what happens is that you have four guys that fit that mold this year (Lincecum, Hernandez, Sabathia, Grienke), but you also have a few guys down the line that fill a similar need (Johnson, Carpenter, Verlander, Gallardo), so as long as you're able to get in on either an ace or a pseudo-ace, you have a nice jump off point. As I mentioned in my "pay for saves" theory, there are five closers you have to have. Ideally, you want two, which is what I came up with here. It's breaking down in a snake draft that Soria and Wilson are the two I'm ending up with. The rest of the staff rounds out something like this: really, really young starting pitchers. There are, in my opinion, the "Super Seven" young starters, and if I have the team go this way, I'll get them all, which is nuts. Kershaw is fifteen W's and 200 Ks in the bank. He's by far the biggest non-risk of the bunch. Then, there is the middle ground with Clay, Price, and Porcello. These are guys who will get 12-14 Ws and 150 Ks, totally solid, no questions asked. Then, there's the big risk, big reward guys. Matusz is the #2 behind Millwood in Baltimore. With the O's poised to finish around .500, I'm thinking Matusz going for 14-16 wins is not out of the question. The two on my bench, Strasburg and Chapman, are even bigger risks because both likely will not be in the majors at the start of the season. However, upon entry, they may come with Valenzuela-like numbers once they are in their respective rotations...that's how good both of them are right now. The first time through each team's lineups they will face, they're probably going to be super-dominant, and if the other teams do get wiser on either of them, it will be at the tail-end of the season, meaning the damage would have been done long before that point. You absolutely need a second pitch in the majors, but for young pitchers in their first go-around, speed kills.

So, there are a few of my thoughts on the world of fantasy baseball. Thanks for getting all the way through it, and if you decided to skip down through all of it just to see how I would wrap things up, you are also to be thanked. Take care everyone. Peace.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

"When I step into the light, my eyes searching widely."

Yeah Big Red.

Welcome to the surprising NFL turn to March Madness here. For what it's The tournament has been amazing. So, here's why I'm going NFL and mock draft here. I feel like I can slip this in at a brief conscience-of-football that I'm having. Let's dive right in.

(Also, I want to apologize for anyone who likes or knows Everson Griffen, the defensive end from Southern Cal, as I egregiously omitted his name from the top 10 D-Ends in my first draft column. Really missed that one...oh well...hopefully this will be some kind of retribution here...)
  1. St. Louis- Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma: I can't see this changing. It seems like from what the words have been out of St. Louis and Rams' people, this is their guy. Again...they have got to draft a QB in the top 5 at some points...if anything, just to kick the tires on the idea of finding a franchise QB, especially now that the Arena League is done...I mean, there goes that avenue.
  2. Detroit- Russell Okung, OT, Detroit: This is funny...I feel like the Lions are in the same boat as the Rams are. They almost have to draft a franchise, or at least they will hope be a franchise, player at left tackle. Their QBs, despite having numerous first round WRs on one team at any given point in the last five years (sure, some didn't work out...but they were there) have been getting destroyed because they have no line. I thought Suh here automatically because he's my #1 this year, meaning he should probably go at least #2. I'm also feeling that the perception that the Lions seemingly were locked into getting either Suh or Warren here have started to fade off.
  3. Tampa Bay- Gerard Warren, DT, Oklahoma: I think that Warren is the Bucs' guy even if Suh drops to them. I think they have Warren #1 on their board. Warren represents a more raw side, something that jives well in Tampa. The feeling is they have to find Warren Sapp here if they go DT, as invariably, those will be the comparisons. I feel like Warren represents Sapp more than Suh.
  4. Washington-...Okay, I'm going to have to break this into two parts, as if all this goes according to said plan, you now have two guys (Suh, Eric Berry) who are absolutely worth not only trading into the top 5 for, but also worth the ridiculous amount of money they will have to drop to sign him. So, possible trading partners include, ugh, the Jets because they're wild on draft day, and always do whatever it takes to get their guy. who I'm suspecting is Berry to replace Kerry Rhodes...also, with all the Ed Reed comparisons, Rex Ryan's at least trying to get the next best thing. Then, there's Buffalo, who, so desperate for a QB they are, could potentially take Jimmy Clausen here to block a possible Seattle pick at #6...speaking of the Seahawks...they have two first rounders, and while it would ludicrous to expect them to trade both to move up, they will at least be able to keep one of them when trading up to the top 5 (most likely #14), so they are in a flexible position. Suh is the wild card simply because there is an inkling of voices getting out saying that, despite the amazing numbers and production, he won't work out. I can't say I'm one of them yet, but it's not totally ill-conceived it seems. Miami I think is in the most desperate need for a D-Tackle this close to the 'Skins pick, but you have to wonder if they are looking for a run stuffer to play in the 3-4...honestly, I think he would do amazing things in Miami. You need athletes to play in that sun...him and Jason Taylor, even though Taylor is getting up can't argue that it is at least somewhat intriguing. So, here's the answer: The 'Skins have to get out of this pick, get at least two more high draft picks in addition to the first-rounder they surely will receive, and re-build. However, if Washington ops to stay here, they're going Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa simply because Shanahan knows that without line help, his offense won't work. Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson?...hey...maybe it works. I really didn't like it the first time when it was called Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. I'm believing NFL teams thinking this guy could be like Okung...the "10 Year Plan" left tackle.
  5. Kansas City- Eric Berry, S, Tennessee: The Chiefs desperately need a tackle, but once Bulaga is gone (by the way, also put him with Berry and Suh as "the guys to move into the top 5 for"). Berry has the biggest "known" upside (generally, when you think a safety is going to do something in the league, he does something in the league), and he couldn't be the worse consolation prize right?
  6. Seattle- Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska: It's inconceivable he drops this far without someone trading up to, maybe even here, to take him. However, if you think it's far-fetched Seattle goes D-Tackle over QB here, their DTs on the roster are Red Bryant, Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane, and Craig Terrell...and no one's mentioned the Seahawks being a player for one of the top two DTs? I had to look that up on two sites just to make sure the first one was right!
  7. Cleveland- Joe Haden, CB, Florida: Haden is back in the saddle again now that he ran much better at his pro day, and with that, "garnering" a top 10 pick, despite the fact that he was worth it beforehand.
  8. Oakland- Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida: I had Bruce Campbell here, and was almost completely sold that the freakishly athletic OT would go to the guy who loves athletes...but then it struck me...Al Davis not only like athletes, he likes the athletes you don't expect him to draft (last year, Jeremy Maclin is who everyone thought Oakland would go with because he did extremely well at the Combine, and yet they ended up taking Darrius Heyward-Bey, which caught everyone by surprise). I think the need to be unpredictable is almost as high as the need for speed. Everyone has Campbell here because he was so outstanding at the Combine, that you know Al was loving it...but not everyone thinks he'll take him...I think he has to go at least somewhat off the reservation here. Taylor Mays is a huge sleeper here.
  9. Buffalo- Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame: The Bills' rep in New York will be knocking over small children to make this one. The Bills want either Okung or Bulaga, but I believe there is too much interest, and they'll get shut out. The Bills so much wanted Trent Edwards to be the man, but it seems like the thinking is that he may only be a 8-9 game guy...the momentum QB (the Bruce Gradkowski). Trent Williams may end up slipping into the top 10, but I suspect the Bills will be on the move looking for Bulaga or Clausen (if they believe he will go before here).
  10. Jacksonville- Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama: I think the character issues plague Dez Bryant, because he probably should go here, but thinking about the Jags...receivers seem to kind of work so long as they are not overly hyped (Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, Ernest Wilford, Mike help me God, Mike Sims-Walker!). McClain is exactly what they need...the guy they could never find to replace Mike Peterson...the man in the middle.
  11. Denver- Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech: Okay, same as the Jags through the first two commas...and...wait for it...but thinking about the Broncos, questionable-character receivers seem to be kind of out of style in Denver...knowing this, does Josh McDaniels really tap Bryant here? I keep thinking Morgan is probably the best overall athlete in this draft. He's Julius Peppers but 21.
  12. Miami- Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee: This one, however, I'm completely unconvinced about switching. Williams is that run-stuffer the Dolphins need, and despite what may become a fever-pitched wanting of Ndamukong Suh, Williams is reminiscent of Vince Wilfork, and the Dolphins really wanted Wilfork to leave New England this year not only to not face him, but to sign him.
  13. San Francisco- Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma: Again, there seems to be a growing consensus that Williams is top 10 bound, it's just a matter of who is willing to move up to get him, or if someone who's already there takes him. I think the Niners have to go tackle with one of these, whether it be Williams here, trading up to get Williams, or waiting until #17 to get Charles Brown.
  14. Seattle- Charles Brown, OT, Southern Cal: This is why I think the Niners have to go tackle at #13, because more than likely, Williams is off the board by 13, and Brown will be the only guy left who has a somewhat top 15 grade...if the Niners think they can pass on Brown, and expect Pete Carroll to not give him serious consideration here, they're nuts.
  15. New York Giants- Sean Weatherspoon, ILB, Missouri: I think Weatherspoon's leadership abilities will be brought more to the fore-front come draft day, as will Rolando McClain's, which is why he won't be here. Weatherspoon is "McClain Lite" for the sake of this arguement...I'm not saying he won't have a fine career, but all things considered, about 90-95% of teams are taking McClain over Weatherspoon.
  16. Tennessee- Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State: I'm now convinced Wilson is on Haden's level. I know that Haden right now is better, but once they both hit the pros, my feeling now is that Wilson has as much, if not, more impact than Haden. Shocking, I know.
  17. San Francisco- Earl Thomas, S, Texas: If the Niners come home with a tackle and a hard-hitting safety in the first round, they automatically get at least a B+ for their overall draft grade.
  18. Pittsburgh- Mike Iupati, G, Idaho: Bruce Campbell was originally my mortal lock of the first round...this is now by mortal lock.
  19. Atlanta- Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State: If he's not off the board via someone trading up to get him (Dallas comes to mind), Bryant going to Atlanta is arguably the most fascinating of all his potential destinations. Michael Jenkins obviously has not lived up to his lofty expectations...with Matty Ice behind center, Roddy White on one side, Bryant on the other, Gonzalez up the's pretty much all there is to that.
  20. Houston- Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State: I can't help but feel that the loss of the University of South Carolina's own Dunta Robinson (6 years, $57 million, 100% guaranteed satisfaction going to the Falcons) will cause the Texans to overcompensate, and perhaps reach for a corner here (also, remember how outstanding each of their defensive first rounders have been, including...the University of South Carolina's own Dunta Robinson! (we had a tough basketball season, sorry if I'm holding onto some pride here).
  21. Cincinnati- Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma: The pressure to get Palmer something over the middle will become almost unbearable for Marvin Lewis, as, although he may want to go on a risk and draft Mays here, he has to realize that all his "high risk, high reward" guys have flamed out, and Gresham, despite the knee injury, is safe here.
  22. New England- Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan: I'm warming to Graham, but I'm still not convinced he's the guy. Come draft day, I may change, but right now, if you tell me Graham or Sergio Kindle, I'm going nuts about Kindle. Maybe that's me, but Kindle seems to simply be better right now...but we're a system team, and if Graham fits the system, then so be it...ERIC NORWOOD! That's it...draft Norwood...give me something as a USC alum I can root for on my hometown team (I may be wrong about this, because I don't have both research teams or the time for this...I'm pretty sure we haven't had anyone from Carolina since the first Super Bowl appearance when I was 1...come on Bill!)
  23. Green Bay- Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers: Wow. Davis went from the #1 tackle and almost a sure-fire top 5 pick...but again..."character issues." They are plaguing some guys right now (Dez, Davis, Aaron Hernandez to name three). The Packers may be able to work this guy in, as they really have to address this need before anything else.
  24. Philadelphia- Taylor Mays, S, Southern Cal: Very likely Mays gets scooped up before this just based on the fact that he's a physical beast. The Eagles let Brian Dawkins somehow meander off to Denver, and they've obviously been reeling since then. Mays' upside could have Eagles fans excited about their secondary once again.
  25. Baltimore- Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida: Dunlap slips this far because of "questionable motor," which, if you're the Ravens, you have to believe won't slide with Ray Lewis still maybe they take a chance here.
  26. Arizona- Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas: I had Jerry Hughes here, and I'm not entirely convinced he won't be the guy, but I have Kindle ahead of Hughes in terms of his draft stock...potential though, they're about dead even.
  27. Dallas- Maurkice Pouncey, G, Florida: Upgrading their line makes way too much sense. Pouncey and Iupati are the two interior linemen who not only will go in the first round, but will have every opportunity to start right away (although, as I mentioned in my last draft column, Iupati is ready to go right now, while you may experience a few more growing pains with Pouncey).
  28. San Diego- C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson: Before anyone says anything, I am fully aware Spiller won't be here, but if we're doing this without trades, I honestly believe that no one else from picks 10-30 has their biggest, or even second biggest need be a running back. Meanwhile, the Chargers have either a runner or a nose tackle being by far and away their biggest needs. Having said that, Spiller will likely be gone...I have Ryan Matthews or Terrance Cody here. I think Cody did enough at his pro day to be a late first-rounder, while I thought all along that this kid can be motivated into being great, and thus spending a first round pick on Cody was not so far-fetched.
  29. New York Jets- Jared Odrick, LB, Penn State: Again, this could be Hughes, but I feel like Odrick is more of Rex Ryan's kind of guy than Hughes simply because of how he played in the rough and tough Big 10.
  30. Minnesota- Brian Price, DT, UCLA: Sticking with Price here because he had a giant upside, and again, the Williams' will be split either this year or next, meaning they are going to need someone to at least attempt to fill in.
  31. Indianapolis- Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers: They want to see either Iupati or Pouncey fall to them here, but both of those guys I could absolutely see someone trading into the top 25 to take. It's not like taking McCourty will be a loss. They just lost Marlin Jackson, so corner is a need.
  32. New Orleans- Jerry Hughes, LB, TCU: Another guy I can't see lasting this long, but if you're the Saints, you have got to be thinking edge rusher here, regardless of who is available. They may get lucky and have a top 15 guy like Kindle or Hughes fall to them here, but even a guy like, yes, Eric Norwood, or Daryl Washington, another TCU guy. In any're the champs...this is what it's all about. Going last in the first round, with the entire time you're on the clock being a trip down memory lane through the playoffs, and into that Super Bowl win...cherish it...sometimes things you thought may become common ground do not end up in such fashion (see: my current situation).
Okay, no second round here. However, the second round may officially become "The Tebow Round" if he does happen to slip out of the first round. Teams will be jockeying for position to get high up in the second to take him, so teams like St. Louis (already set with QB thanks to Bradford) and Detroit (Stafford) may be in valuable position. The 'Skins may take him, so my feeling is that, if you want him, you'll have to trade with either the Rams, Lions, or Bucs. Tebow in New England makes too much sense. I'm pretty sure most people up here are kind of lukewarm on Tebow based on his off-the-field hoopla (mainly dealing with that Jesus fellow...not saying we're not religious...but we're not "all up in your face" religious...does that make any sense?). Tebow's a winner, and he seems to be hell-bent on making it at the next level. We have three more good years of Tom, and then...we're screwed. I'm not saying Tebow is going to be at a Brady level once he starts at QB, but right now, he is by far the best backup plan that will be available probably in the next five years. I used to hate Tebow, but it's like I used to hate Mariano seemed like they were both one-trick ponies (Tebow running up the middle, Rivera with the cut fastball), but now I'm understanding that, if it works, who cares? If you told Dolphins fans before the Pats game two years ago "hey, we're going to have Ronnie Brown lined up at QB, split out Chad Pennington, and put Ricky Williams in motion all game, but we're going to kick their asses," they wouldn't have taken it? I think it's bliss when it happens on your team, but when you play against them, you try and downgrade the accomplishments based on the fact that it is the same thing over and over again...and yet you can't stop it. So, I'm huge on Tebow.

The other picks the Pats have need to be spent on WR, TE, or just a general athlete. If you go receiver, it's got to be Demaryius Thomas from GA Tech if he happens to drop to them. So much raw upside, so little tape on's a big risk, but consider they are anticipating Brandon Tate to try and come back, they will at least have some depth in case Thomas doesn't pan out...but I just can't see that happening. The TE to me comes down to Aaron Hernandez and Jimmy Graham. They have tried to have the burly, Ben Coates-type, but that has really not paid any dividends (Daniel Graham was here...allegedly, and Ben Watson's greatest accomplishment was running down Champ Bailey in that playoff game...which I'm still convinced was a touchback and not a touchdown, but I digress). So, perhaps changing philosophies would make a positive impact. In fact, overall, they need a change, which is what I think their draft needs to be all about...change. I feel like the Pats were ahead of their time about five years ago, but have allowed the rest of the league to catch up with them, and now are relegated to perhaps getting out of maybe one round of the playoffs before getting bounced. I'm not saying four draft picks will turn everything around, but if they hit on three of them, they will be looking at five years at least where they will be an 11+ win team.

Here's a list of guys the Pats need to consider at #'s 44, 47, and 53:
  • Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
  • Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan
  • Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas
  • Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
  • Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
  • Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota
  • Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami
  • Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida
  • Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
  • Dexter McCluster, RB, Ole Miss
  • Ricky Sapp, DE, Clemson
  • Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina
  • Daryl Washington, OLB, TCU
  • Navorro Bowman, OLB, Penn State
  • Sean Lee, ILB, Penn State
  • Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida
So, the draft is now under a month away, and the general conception has now started to come out basically the same as what I've been thinking all along...this is the biggest draft in at least ten years for the Pats. If they don't cash in this year, it may never end, but if they can get some guys who can make both immediate and long-term impacts, then New England may be set up for five, ten years to come.

There will be at least one more mock on the way before the actual draft begins. Next up, Fantasy Baseball Dossier 3.0. Until then, take care everyone. Peace.


Monday, March 15, 2010

March Madness Dossier 1.0

"The ball is tipped, and there you are."

Now this is exciting. For the first time since graduating from college, I will be there for that 12:00 tap on Thursday. Just incredibly pumped about this weekend (and some teams, which I will go through in a bit). St. Patty's Day on Wednesday going right into the first day of the there a better way to daze into the next morning than four simultaneous first round games? Also, allegedly, the weather is supposed to be amazing Wed.-Fri....and in case you were unaware, canoeing to work may become en vogue in another day...that's how much it's rained the last three days. I have honestly never seen anything like it. I'm not at the point of being scared...but I am a little concerned that this rain catches up to us at some point (apparently manhole covers are just kind of floating above the ground now...which tends to be somewhat of an issue). In any event, I have some faith in this weather turning...who cares though? March Madness is here.

So, here's how I'm thinking about doing this. Basically for me, this is all about feel. In the past, I really allowed the numbers to clout my better judgment. I have to say that I really have almost felt sick to my stomach (this is what I imagine food poisoning is all about...which I think I may have had when I was 13...not sure). It's like I knew it would be more enjoyable to pull for Team X, but yet the numbers said Team Y by like a millimeter, so I went Y. So, this year, I will be breaking down just the overall feeling I have towards some of these teams, and who I'm going with. I'm doing this on a Monday, the day right after the selection show, so in no way can I get caught by one team, or swept up by some stat that I can't let go. Although it could be argued that picking closer to Thursday is probably the better move so any late injuries can be considered, or whatever could alter how some teams play. I'm thinking that the more time I have to think and re-think...and re-think the re-think, it's just going to make things worse. Trust me on this. So, here is the first March Madness Dossier (because "manifesto" is taken...and it reminds me of my GoldenEye Strategy Guide...the level tips were "dossiers"...good game).

The Midwest Region:
  1. Kansas
  2. Ohio State
  3. Georgetown
  4. Maryland
  5. Michigan State
  6. Tennessee
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. UNLV
  9. Northern Iowa
  10. Georgia Tech
  11. San Diego State
  12. New Mexico State
  13. Houston
  14. Ohio
  15. UC Santa Barbara
  16. Lehigh
First Round Winners: Kansas, Northern Iowa, Michigan State, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgerown, Georgia Tech, Ohio State

I really like UNLV's style, but trust me on Northern Iowa. This team was dominant this season, and I'm kind of curious to see how the Rebs respond after losing the MWC Championship to San Diego State on their home floor. No one in the 11-14 range really jumps out at me. Georgia Tech has that kind of raw athletic edge that could get them either bounced from the first round or into the Sweet Sixteen...hate those teams, you know, the one's you can't predict...because I'm predicting here.

Second Round Winners: Kansas, Michigan State, Georgetown, Ohio State

I think Evan Turner is at a Kevin Durant-like level in terms of his game, only I believe that unlike Durant, Turner at least has some experience playing in this type of atmosphere. So, that will get them through at least two rounds. I think Maryland is an entirely different team away from home. Also, they beat Duke at home, meaning Greivis Vasquez's career is complete already. Georgetown is looking too good right now, and probably should have won the Big East considering Butler from West Virginia went up-and-down on his game winner.

Third Round Winners: Kansas, Georgetown

If Kansas/Michigan State were to happen, it would pit two guards who have become legends at their schools (Kalin Lucas and Sherron Collins). I feel like Michigan State is an "every other year" team, where one year they make a huge run, the next, they're out in one round. Luckily for them, the two teams they get in the first two rounds have even more question marks in terms of their ability to make a run. Georgetown is going to benefit from the overwhelming pressure that will start to be placed on Evan Turner. I'm not saying that he is incapable of being able to handle it, but there is only so much you can realistically expect from one player. If Georgetown is able to wrap up Turner, which I believe they will do, then the Buckeyes are going to be in big, big trouble. They went from top 10 with Turner to unranked without him, to top 5 with him. Also, the Big 10 is wildly overrated in my estimation, so a battle-tested team like the Hoyas could really pose a threat to Thad Motta and Co.

Final Four Pick: Kansas

The Jayhawks are the "classy" team this year...I always like picking the classy teams because they have the ability to just completely floor other teams based on just how good they are. Kansas was at least in the top 2 teams all year long, and it's really tough to argue that they weren't the best.

The West Region:
  1. Syracuse
  2. Kansas State
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Vanderbilt
  5. Butler
  6. Xavier
  7. BYU
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Florida State
  10. Florida
  11. Minnesota
  12. UTEP
  13. Murray State
  14. Oakland
  15. North Texas
  16. Vermont
First Round Picks: Syracuse, Florida State, Butler, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Pittsburgh, BYU, Kansas State

This is by far the scariest region for me...I am really, really nervous about everything, and that's never a good sign. My strategy is to go conservative in the first round, then start to get somewhat goofy in the second, followed, by conservative-conservative. I am not sure if this formula will work, but if it does...we may have a theory in the works. Ay-Yo! Theory in the works! Anyway, going chalk pretty much throughout. 'Cuse/UVM is actually going to be a decent game. Marquis Blakely...coming to a Vegas Summer League team near you. The center for Florida State, Solomon Alibi, is just good times all-around. He went from being a horrendous free throw shooter to almost 80% in one year. Really like UTEP, and I think that game with Butler will be great. However, I like the experience of Butler. I feel like they will have adjusted to being on the 4 or 5 line. They aren't the proverbial underdog anymore (Gonzaga goes from being cinderella, to powerhouse that can't handle a top seed, to okay, we're good, we can accept being the favorite). I feel like the Vandy/Murray State game has OT written all over it, and my gut is telling me Vandy wins a game that goes to extra frames. Minnesota is smoke and mirrors...yet I keep feeling all this Big 10 smack talk that I've put out, and will continue to put out throughout, could kill me...nah, I'll be alright. Florida as a #10 is interesting considering I thought Mississippi State was a better team, and not only does Florida have a higher rank, but State's not even in the tournament. Kansas State is a top-10 ranked Georgia clue what team will show up.

Second Round Picks: Syracuse, Butler, Xavier, Kansas State

From here on out, I will be looking for a reason not to go with Syracuse...just a fair warning there. It's not that I don't like them, but they seem like they could grenade if they don't get their center, Arkinze Onuaku, back. However, he is their fourth leading scorer, and fourth leading rebounder, so I'm not sure if they will get entirely derailed whether or not he plays. As I was saying earlier, I really think this will be the year that Butler becomes comfortable with being a dominant presence in college basketball, and they will definitely make things interesting for Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen (again, if all goes according to plan). Xavier was a terror for Pittsburgh last year, and I'm expecting big noise from them this year. Kansas State I just don't like at all, but I'm down on BYU as well, so it's really a lose-lose for me. Taking it in on a whole, I'm not sure BYU has that edge that is needed to beat Kansas State...they're kind of stagnant to be completely honest with you. So, K-State gets through to the Sweet Sixteen

Third Round Picks: Syracuse, Xavier

I really think Syracuse/Butler has huge potential ramifications. If Butler is able to pull this game off, it will officially bring Indiana basketball back to the forefront after the Hoosiers have been a laughing stock ever since their Final Four appearance back in 2002, and the Pacers have sucked since Reggie Miller hung it up (that 30 in 30 on Reggie and the Knicks was outstanding by the way). Again, even if K-State survives BYU, they will entertain the Musketeers, who conceivably could have been in five Elite Eights since 2004 (have appeared in two).

Final Four Pick: Syracuse

Again, I'm going conservative here purely based on the fact that there is no other team I can see winning this region. Really, it's up to Butler. There is an absolute chance they run the tables to Indy, but I think the Orange may play with a chip on their shoulder considering they got bumped by Duke to play in Salt Lake City instead of Houston (I haven't been to either of the terms of where a winter-locked team would want to go to get to the Final Four, I'm thinking the warmer locale is what's up).

The East Region:
  1. Kentucky
  2. West Virginia
  3. New Mexico
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Temple
  6. Marquette
  7. Clemson
  8. Texas
  9. Wake Forest
  10. Missouri
  11. Washington
  12. Cornell
  13. Wofford
  14. Montana
  15. Morgan State
  16. East Tennessee State
First Round Picks: Kentucky, Wake Forest, Cornell, Wisconsin, Marquette, New Mexico, Missouri, West Virginia

You have to wonder how well Kentucky would do in, say, the Big East or the Big 12...I'm thinking 32-2...yeah they're that good. Texas has been in a two-month free fall that saw them go from #1 to unranked and an eighth seed in the tourney. Al-Faroug Aminu officially wins the "guy with the name" award from Wake. Cornell is so good. They absolutely took it to all their non-conference opponents, but just couldn't seal the deal. Plus, you need a #12 (that actually should be posted under every bracket...NOTE: While filling out the contents of this bracket, is by complete theoretical absoluteness you select a 12 to beat a 5). I wanted to go U-Dub, but then I saw they have a guy named Isaiah Thomas...that used to be a solid name to have. Mizzou was in the Elite Eight last year, and I'm picking against Clemson...totally comfortable with that choice.

Second Round Picks: Kentucky, Cornell, New Mexico, West Virginia

Yeah Big Red. How can you root for Wisconsin unless you're from there or went there? That is such a horrendous style of play. Play good D, score 60, and hope for the best. Cornell has experience in big spots against big names this year. Everyone is down on the Lobos because they are a #3, and I respect that because I never have felt exceptionally comfortable with a beginning of the year sleeper that turns out to not be in a sleeper position. However, it's going to be way too tough to root against them, so I'm sticking with New Mexico. Also, if Marquette wins this game, they play West Virginia in the third's really tough for me to imagine an in-conference matchup this early in the tournament. I know we had one last year with Pitt and 'Nova, but that was to get to the Final Four, not the Elite Eight. West Virginia is riding a really nice luck streak. Especially in the first few rounds, it's better to be lucky than good.

Third Round Picks: Kentucky, New Mexico

Lobos...simply because they were my team all along. I watched them so closely as the reeled off win after win and steadily ascending the polls without too much wavering. Yes, they lost two games in a row and three of five including a 12-point loss to UNLV on January 9th, which before their conference loss against San Diego State (yes, them again), was the last time they lost a game (that would be two months and fifteen games ago if you were curious...I know I was). Too good too quick? Perhaps, but considering I already had my mind made up about who was advancing out of this region about two months ago, this isn't really that much of a gamble.

Final Four Pick: Kentucky

Yeah, I'm not picking against Kentucky regardless of how much I like a team. I really think New Mexico is outstanding...Kentucky is just way up in some other atmosphere that I'm not even sure we knew existed, especially considering they are led by two freshmen. Here's the thing about that though: I'm pretty sure they have no idea they are supposed to feel any kind of pressure at all. Here is the best team to come out of Kentucky in fifteen years, they've been in the top 5 all year, and yet you couldn't even really notice. Sure, they lost to USC, and that was great, but it took a superhuman effort by a superhuman individual to accomplish that, something that no one on this side of the bracket has.

The South Region:
  1. Duke
  2. Villanova
  3. Baylor
  4. Purdue
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Richmond
  8. California
  9. Louisville
  10. Saint Mary's
  11. Old Dominion
  12. Utah State
  13. Siena
  14. Sam Houston State
  15. Robert Morris
  16. Arkansas/Pine Bluff or Winthrop
First Round Picks: Duke, Louisville, Texas A&M, Siena, Notre Dame, Baylor, Saint Mary's, Villanova

Let me make one quick observation before I dive into this...why does the play-in winner play the #3 overall seed and not the #1 overall seed? Do you see where I'm coming from here? Wouldn't you think that the best team would play the "worst" team in? Isn't that what this whole bracket thing is about? Seeding based on how you played the season? Also, Duke has by far the "easiest" road to the Final Four, and yet they're the third #1...interesting. You have to hope for two things: 1.) A Coach K/Pitino matchup, and 2.) Pitino wears the matching white shirt and jacket combo that made me think he was at Puffy's "White-Out" Hamptons party. You just have to trust me on Siena. I was actually up there last weekend grabbing every case of Yuengling I could possibly find in the Albany area (sorry Albany-based spring breakers...that's the way the s___ boils down day Yuengling is bountifully available, and then a storm comes in with an extra large truck bed, and it's all over), and everyone is wearing Siena gear...everyone. The only thing that concerns me is that no one is giving Purdue a chance to get to the Sweet Sixteen, and just a slight edge in their game against the Saints (currently a four-point favorite)...oh, and did I mention they're the Saints? that's interesting. Notre Dame has at least one win left in them. Richmond would be much better served as a lower seed. I'm not sure how they will respond to being on the top half.

Second Round Picks: Duke, Siena, Baylor, Villanova

Again, Siena. Here's a team who has been to the tournament three straight years, and have won a game in each of those two years. So, they're hungry to see what awaits beyond just winning the first round. Notre Dame had a great run to get to this spot, but I can see them running out of steam. Baylor is a pure energy team, and if they are not feeling it, then its curtains. My hopes are that they come out rolling, which they are more than capable of doing. 'Nova will have their hands full with Saint Mary's. I can't believe St. Mary's would not have gotten in had they lost to Gonzaga in the WCC finals. This is as streaky as they come, and if the Gaels start shooting, 'Nova may not be able to keep up.

Third Round Picks: Duke, Baylor

If Baylor makes it to the Sweet Sixteen, they will be playing to get to the Final Four from Houston...I can see Baylor-mania happening if the Bears make it that far. 'Nova is such a gritty team that they could put a wrench into the mania, but I can't help but really be on board for this.

Final Four Pick: Baylor

As I was saying, I can't help but really get on board with Baylor right now. Here's how this will shake down: Duke will be playing a powerhouse team on the road, with most likely a 75/25 split in Baylor's advantage crowd-wise. I know that this kind of thing happened to Michigan State last year, but UNC was not going to be defeated (I know, I picked MSU, but I think I lost track of how good UNC was...I mean it was either them, the Horford/Brewer/Noah Gators, or the '05 Tar Heels for best team of the decade). Duke, on the other hand, can be beaten in a hostile environment, like what happened against Maryland. If Baylor can make it, the entire state of Texas will be pulling for them, and even more so considering who they are playing.

The Final Four

The Midwest Region Winner vs. The West Region Winner:

Stay classy Kansas. I just love Sherron Collins. It's one thing if you have a superstar on you're team, but it's completely different if you're superstar is A.) a senior, and B.) a point guard. Collins is not only both of these, but he also has a national title already under his belt. He will likely be Tourney MOP even if they don't win the title (MOP for "Most Outstanding Player"...instead of MVP, you know, like every sport on God's green Earth calls it).

The East Region Winner vs. The South Region Winner: Kentucky

My initial thought was this: There is no way a matchup like Kansas/Kentucky could ever happen unless it was somewhere other than the national title game. However, we seem to be breaking the mold in terms of the dream matchups that happen that you thought you would never see. Something always disrupted this in the past, but you had Yankees/Phillies, Colts/Saints, Red Wings/Pens...twice, and coming soon, Cavs/Lakers. So, why not have the two best teams by far square off for the ultimate prize.

The Champs: Kentucky

Calipari has been to two Final Fours. The first time with UMass (although because of Marcus Camby, it's been stricken from the record, but trust me, "Refuse to Lose" happened), they got bumped by, yup, Kentucky, in the national semifinal. The second time, he went with Memphis to the national final only to lose to, yup, Kansas. So, you have a "third time is the charm" and "revenge game" corollaries going for them. They have the best class of freshmen since the Fab Five. I always love the frosh superstar duo as well. This is Conley/Oden but way better. What's even crazier is that we really have no idea where the ceiling of this team is. You just have to hope for this game though. It would be nice to have the best two teams going after each other. A clear "good guy/bad guy" element also comes into play with Calipari's litany of alleged violations...well some alleged, others turned out to be proven. I'm thinking the 'Cats are 'dogged in that game as well, and in these marquee matchups, the underdog has been doing quite well.

And now, factual information. Here are the start times for Thursday and Friday's games:


12:20- MW (7) BYU vs. (10) Florida; Oklahoma City
12:25- S (6) Notre Dame vs. (11) Old Dominion; New Orleans
12:30- S (2) Villanova vs. (15) Robert Morris; Providence

2:30- W (4) Vanderbilt vs. (13) Murray State; San Jose
2:40- W (2) Kansas State vs. (15) North Texas; Oklahoma City
2:45- S (3) Baylor vs. (14) Sam Houston State; New Orleans
2:50- S (7) Richmond vs. (10) Saint Mary's; Providence

4:45- W (5) Butler vs. (12) UTEP; New Orleans

7:10- MW (8) UNLV vs. (9) Northern Iowa; Oklahoma City
7:15- E (1) Kentucky vs. (16) East Tennessee State; New Orleans
7:20- E (6) Marquette vs. (11) Washington; San Jose
7:25- MW (3) Georgetown vs. (14) Ohio; Providence

9:30- MW (1) Kansas vs. (16) Lehigh; Oklahoma City
9:35- E (8) Texas vs. (9) Wake Forest; New Orleans
9:40- E (3) New Mexico vs. (14) Montana; San Jose
9:45- MW (6) Tennessee vs. (11) San Diego State; Providence


12:15- E (2) West Virginia vs. (15) Morgan State; Buffalo
12:25- W (6) Xavier vs. (11) Minnesota; Milwaukee
12:30- E (5) Temple vs. (12) Cornell; Jacksonville

2:30- S (4) Purdue vs. (13) Siena; Spokane
2:35- E (7) Clemson vs. (10) Missouri; Buffalo
2:45- W (3) Pittsburgh vs. (14) Oakland; Milwaukee
2:50- E (4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Wofford; Jacksonville

4:45- S (5) Texas A&M vs. (12) Utah State; Spokane

7:10- W (8) Gonzaga vs. (9) Florida State; Buffalo
7:15- MW (7) Oklahoma State vs. (10) Georgia Tech; Milwaukee
7:20- MW (5) Michigan State vs. (12) New Mexico State; Spokane
7:25- S (1) Duke vs. (16) Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Winthrop; Jacksonville

9:30- W (1) Syracuse vs. (16) Vermont; Buffalo
9:35- MW (2) Ohio State vs. (15) UC Santa Barbara; Milwaukee
9:40- MW (4) Maryland vs. (13) Houston; Spokane
9:45- S (8) California vs. (9) Louisville; Jacksonville

So, there you have it. I went basically the opposite of how I have been going the entire time I've been predicting this tournament. It was all about feeling here. No numbers involved at have no idea how tough this was. No RPI, no three-point percentages, no adjusted scoring margins...nothing! So, hopefully it goes well, and if it doesn't, I'm pretty sure that leaves me where I was to begin with. So, good luck everyone. May your brackets be masterful ones. Peace.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2nd Annual MLB Over/Under Predictions

"Shooting lines for people to believe in."

March is a wildly underrated month in the sports year I'm figuring out, and the reason it's so underrated (at least as far as I'm concerned) is that in March, there really is no resolution to anything, and yet how you do in March speaks volumes about what may come in the future. The NBA and NHL are both making their final playoff pushes, NFL higher-ups are busy traveling across the nation trying to figure out who they will take in April's draft, college hoops is busy crowning conference champions and, eventually, fielding the Final Four which April. Spring training is in full swing for a season that starts in, yup, April. However, with spring training, you can catch a glimpse of the faces that may be dominating this sport in the next five to ten years. This year is no exception. As we get closer to Opening Day (which of course is Yankees/ cliche), let's take a look at each team's chances this year, as well as if the expectations being put on them are in any way reasonable.

(Not only do I want to dedicate this column to my uncle, for which all of my works have been for, but also for Nomar Garciaparra, who retired today after signing his last contract with the Red Sox. Garciaparra was one of the first players I ever saw that made me question the possibilities that one player's impact could have. Not only was he outstanding on the field during his run in Boston ('96-'04), but he captured the collective imaginations of an entire fan base...and at that point, with that whole "curse" thing still lingering, that was not the easiest thing to accomplish. He is the greatest shortstop to ever play in Boston, and was the initial building block for what we now know as Red Sox Nation. We salute you #5.)

All over/unders are provided by

AL East
New York Yankees, 103-59 (94.5):
Well, I probably couldn't have been more wrong about the Yankees as I was last year. Say what you will about biasedness, but I really thought they would play the entire season like they did in April and parts of May. But, oddly enough, they banded together like, dare I say, the 2004 Sox, and went on a five-month rampage en route to a title. It puzzles me why the O/U is so low. I guess this is an indication of what Vegas believes the Sox can do this year. Also, the Rays, who won the division title in '08, slipped big time last year. Not really sure, but I'm not ready to bet against this team w/ Granderson and a half-decent Javier Vazquez. Over.

Boston Red Sox, 95-67 (94):
This may be a bit elongated in comparison to the other team breakdowns, but bare with me.

The Sox did not find an answer to Jason Bay's departure. This puzzles me. They had the resources to re-sign Bay, who, you really can't deny, was working in Boston. Experts label him as an average I wrong, or did he play the wall really well all things considered? Nowadays, you absolutely need a solid 1-7 if you want to contend in this division...right now I'm seeing 1-5 (Jacoby, Pedroia, Ortiz (I'm a believer), Youkilis, V-Mart) working in a fairly nice unison, but 6-9 (Beltre, Drew, Cameron, Scutaro)? I can't help but feel overwhelmingly scared in any really big spot, which tends to crop up a lot playing the Yankees and D-Rays 36 times a year. These guys feel like transition they're here this year, and yet I'm feeling like three of them will be gone in 2011 (J.D. will still be going strong).

You can interpret this in two ways. Either we're really buying into believing that this lineup will be able to withstand the test of an entire season, or, is this the lineup that we're looking at for three months, and then come July, when teams will be looking to unload talent for salary room and prospects knowing that they're finished this know this is my desperate hope that they get Adrian Gonzalez and make their 1-6 at least nearly invincible. So, while watching the first three months, focus on the Sox, but definitely keep a decent eye on how the Padres do as well. Sure Jed Hoyer, the Pads' GM, is probably still pissed he isn't GM'ing the Sox still (he was the co-replacement during Theo's hiatus), but at some point, he'll have to realize that Gonzalez will be hitting the east coast at some point, and if he wants any compensation for that move, the window on that is closing, so if the right group of prospects is put together (which they have), it definitely could happen.

I have a hard time with the John Lackey contract. I think he's a really good pitcher. I think that whoever they were going to have at the #2 spot this year would not be as talented at he is right now. However, why must the Sox continue to recant on their promise to not going nuts year-wise with free agent contracts? The whole "no five-year deal to anyone" promise actually works, and yet the organization continues to be somewhat desperate to make a splash knowing what is on the line. We just ask for doesn't really matter at the end of the day how much you spend so long as you have a group of players who fans can like watching, and who will be excited to watch on TV and in person. They have the resources to make it happen, and yet I'm not getting it from anyone they've acquired (although I've always wanted Cameron, but I'll get to that in a little bit).

Lackey is the contract that stands out to me because of its length and value. I'm sorry if that's the way I see it, and I may be completely wrong about it, and if I am, I will be willing to admit that, just as I did about the Yankees. Doing this half in my head, but mostly on my computer calculator, Lackey is due to make $16.5 million a year in this deal. Tim Linceum got $11.5 million/per for two this like a "Freaky Friday" kind of thing? Like they each should have got the others' contract? In any event, a 32 year-old pitcher getting five years? I mean he's really going to have to go nuts. It seems like we wanted to make a huge splash to overturn what happened last year, and it didn't really work out that way.

Okay, positives...young pitching. We have plenty, which you rarely get to say. The Sox can willingly call up a top prospect to pitch an inning, or spot-start whenever they need it. Lester, Buchholz...I'm starting to understand why they didn't trade Clay for Saltalamacchia. He can develop into a 200-inning guy over time, much like what David Price has become.

Papelbon is a rock, and you just have to believe me on this one. He's done too much for anyone to ever question if he has lost it. If you want a guy coming in in the 9th in these current times, you want him, Rivera, or Soria. That's pretty much the list of the "shut-down" closers as it stands right now (love Brian Wilson, Joe Nathan's gone for the year). Then, add Daniel are at least looking at a top-two 1-2 eighth-to-ninth guys (Phil Hughes/Rivera has it right now...although they want to split them up like they did with which I say by all means New York, make one of your strengths a weakness). I like the bullpen a lot.

I love Mike Cameron, but I don't love how they are utilizing him right now. Again, it comes back to not bringing back Bay or signing Matt Holliday. This move that Jacoby is making from center to left puzzles me. It seems like Cameron is almost in a Karl Malone-like situation where he will likely retire at the end of next year, and is hopeful that he can win a title in that final year. All his answers seem to tell me that he's starting in center this year, and then Jacoby will go back to center after he question is why is Jacoby the one to concede his position? Shouldn't Cameron be a.) happy to be here, and b.) willing to adjust to whatever position the Sox need him in? I think Cameron needs to be a 100-game guy right now...yes, a fourth outfielder, but an outfielder who has the potential to play all three outfield positions, which is something they now do not have. If anything, Cameron in left, Jacoby in center. Cameron is a great fielder, but Jacoby has done so much, and you can almost see the disappointment on him. It is an honor to play left for the Sox, but Ellsbury had his spot in center sealed up for two years, and now Mike Cameron can just take it away? Even Cameron in his prime did not do enough to justify Jacoby switching positions. That situation puzzles me.

On the whole, I remain totally hands-off about buying into this team. This is a team loaded with acquisitions you will not see next year, so therefore, it's hard for me to get emotionally involved with parts of this team when I want to embrace them as a whole. They need to do something big before the season gets out. Otherwise, I'm honestly bracing for third. Sorry to continue the pessimism, but they haven't given me a reason not to be. Under.

Tampa Bay Rays, 84-78 (89):
Tampa has a ton invested in their farm system, and what separates them from the rest of the league is that they have produced more major league-ready talent in the last five years than anyone else. Injuries, and lack of a clear-cut closer, killed them last year. I can't expect to believe that will happen again injury-wise, and Soriano, while not being overwhelming, nevertheless represents some kind of stability. Tampa makes the move into the second best team in the East this year. Over.

Toronto Blue Jays, 75-87 (71):
After the Halladay trade, and getting rid of J.P. Riccardi, the Jays have downgraded themselves to the worst team in the East by far. Their one really good pitching prospect they had coming up (Brandon League) is gone. Alex Rios getting waived was curious. I know 20/20 guys allegedly grow on trees now, but Rios was actually a guy you could build around, and I believe Toronto failed to realize that. Under.

Baltimore Orioles, 64-98 (72.5):
Despite being in a loaded division, the O's will make a decent amount of noise this year, so much so that they may actually have a 50/50 split in fans when they play the Sox at Camden (it's 80/20 Sox fans currently). With Roberts, Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reinhold, and Matt Wieters, Baltimore has a nice, young nucleus to continue to build off of. Pitching will of course still be an issue. They brought in Mike Gonzalez to close...not saying that answers their needs in terms of closing games, but it's a step in the right direction. The tipping point could be Brian Matusz. If he has a breakout year, they could ride that momentum into next year and beyond with him as their ace. Really, really like the makeup of this team, but their pitching inevitably will kill them...they'll still be close to .500 though. Over.

AL Central
Minnesota, 87-76 (82):
So apparently everyone in this division is supposed to finish either .500 or under, and that rarely happens. The Twins won this division last year in the 163rd game against Detroit, and they were looking good until they went up against the Yanks, but that happened to everyone, so what can you do? Joe Nathan's injury will kill them unless Jon Rauch or someone else steps up and shows the ability to close games. Otherwise, you're looking at Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker as your co-aces that they will try and ride out as long as they possibly can. The J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson signings puzzle me considering that I have more confidence in an Alexi Casilla/Brendan Harris duo. They do have the best 1-2 DH combo in baseball (Kubel & Thome)...too bad you can only start one. Under.

Detroit Tigers, 86-77 (81):
A team that you could conceivably have at winning 90 games or 70. These are always the most fun teams to watch though...especially if they end up being good. We've heard about Max Scherzer for a long time, but I keep thinking that Edwin Jackson was actually halfway decent, and letting him walk for a still-unknown is a big gamble. Detroit will benefit from a Verlander/Porcello 1-2 at the top of their of the best in baseball in my opinion. Austin Jackson is really going to have to live up to the hype...not sure about that. Love the Damon pickup. He still as something left, plus he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Love Inge, love Cabrera in any state, and I think Scott Sizemore has a really nice year as a rookie. Again, could go a number of different directions, but for now, I'm choosing to be optimistic. Over.

Chicago White Sox, 79-83 (82):
I'm thinking this is the team to beat in this division. Sure, Jake Peavy isn't quite at elite level anymore, but he's a great guy to start a series with, and you really do need that guy who can at least be thought of as a #1. You're looking at a solid 1-4 in their rotation (Peavy, Buehrle, Danks, Floyd). Also, check out that bullpen. J.J Putz? Scott Linebrink? They have quietly put together a tremendous bridge to get to Bobby Jenks. Here's the biggest fantasy tip I can give you this year: Gordon Beckham is right now listed as a third baseman, but will start the year at second, so he'll be eligible at both after about two weeks. Beckham is my breakout candidate this season. He's a must-have for me (already made him a keeper in my fantasy league...sorry guys). Over.

Cleveland Indians, 65-97 (73):
I pretty much accepted that it was going to be doom and gloom for the Tribe last year, and unfortunately, that's pretty much what happened. The good news is that it can't get much worse. The pitching staff is still pretty much in disarray. Love Masterson, but I think he's still a guy you want pitching long innings out of the 'pen. Not to say he will never start ever (he obviously will), but I'm not sure if he's ready for the kind of workload he will undertake this year. One of the most underrated outfields in the game (LaPorta, Sizemore, Shin Soo-Choo), but this is still a developing team. Carlos Santana will get his chance behind the plate to take over for V-Mart's absence eventually (and yes, his name is Carlos Santana...I saw you double-taking). Under.

Kansas City, 65-97 (71):
So much for KC busting out. Hey, it looked good for the first two months, then the injuries piled up, and what ended up happening was that it was the Zack Grienke show for one game, and the nobody cares show for the other four, and while it should never be like that, no matter how bad a team may be, that's the way it really felt to an outside observer. Mike Aviles disappointed in his sophomore campaign, and now he is relegated to being a super-utility guy in his third year. Alex Gordon has looked great when he's been healthy...the question now is will he ever be healthy for an entire season? I like the Podsednik and Rick Ankiel signings, and as long as Soria remains healthy, they have enough pitching to make a nice jump in wins. Over.

AL West
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 97-65 (84):
I'm pretty sure before every season, the guys in charge of the over/unders get deneuralized by that Men In Black transmitter, and forget everything that happened not only in the last year with the Halos, but also who they acquired in the off-season. Scott Kazmir is their #4...their #4! I love their two big additions (Matsui at DH, Fernando Rodney to be their 7th inning guy). Call me baffled, but I don't understand how they don't win 90 again. Over.

Texas Rangers, 87-75 (83):
This will all come down to pitching, as it always does with the Rangers. They simply do not have enough of it. They have some nice pieces already in place with Feldman and Holland in the rotation, and Neftali Feliz becoming the latest 100 MPH phenom relief pitcher. However, they can score runs at will, and in this division, if you put up five runs a game, you can get to 90 wins. Over.

Seattle Mariners, 85-77 (83):
The M's are one of the teams I will be watching very closely this year. No way can you touch a 1-2 of Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. This is possibly the best tandem since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling teamed up in Arizona. They are that good. If Erik Bedard gets even close to being healthy, they will be lights out. They have no power in their lineup though. You want to talk about small ball. They will be a hit-and-run team all year long, and if they do in fact play that way, you also cannot beat the 1-2 of Ichiro and Chone Figgins to table-set. If they can get a big bat before the deadline, the M's could be the AL sleeper this year. Over.

Oakland Athletics, 75-87 (78):
Ben Sheets went from not pitching for anyone to being the ace of a team...let me reiterate the fact that Ben Sheets did not throw one pitch...not one...all of last year, and he is now the ace in Oakland. Ummm, yeah. Under.

NL East
Philadelphia Phillies, 93-69 (92):
I thought the Phillies were going to be the second-place team in the East, which was just about right before they traded for Cliff Lee, and things really took off. That's the tough part about this. You cannot account for what a team will do during the season in terms of trades. The Phillies were an above average team before they got Lee, who turned them into a powerhouse again. Not paying Lee will end up really hurting him. You can tell in interviews that, while he likes playing for the M's thus far, he really wanted to stay in Philly and pitch out his good years there (because of their proximity to winning another championship now and in the future). Philly decided that Halladay was worth the investment...I just don't know how much longer he can pitch complete games, even in the NL. They have the best lineup in baseball, but the pitching could be their downfall. Again, I'm thinking they regress. Under.

Florida Marlins, 87-75 (81):
Ricky Nolasco was awful last year, they got nothing out of Cameron Maybin, and this team still won 87 games...that's impressive. When you talk about Josh Johnson, you are talking about a force. Here's a guy who has already lived up to the hype that surrounded him, and yet he can still get better. Uggla and Ramirez make up the best 2B/SS tandem in the game (sorry Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins). Still, I can't in good conscience believe that the Marlins can replicate the success they had last year. Under.

Atlanta Braves, 86-76 (86.5):
This is a fascinating team as well. They shouldn't be good, and yet they continue to turn out above-.500 seasons. The face of the franchise is up for grabs now that Chipper Jones is officially on the back nine of his career...or the 19th hole of his career, depending on where you're standing. You need to know three names on the Braves. Jair Jurrjens, who was so impressive last year that he is the ace this year, Tommy Hanson, who is the best pitching prospect in baseball, and Jason Heyward, the best overall prospect in baseball, who will become the everyday right fielder before the All-Star break. I like some of the pieces involved, but like the Sox, it's hard for me to embrace all of it (3/4 of their infield (I really like Yunel Escobar though), and their entire bullpen (Billy Wagner is closing for them now). Under.

New York Mets, 70-92 (81):
I can't even imagine what it must be like to be a Mets fan. 70-92? I thought they would win at least 90 last year...what happened? I think what happened was that Jose Reyes is the heart and soul of this team, and without him, they looked lost. Now it appears that with his thyroid problem, he'll be done for this season as well. I continue to suspend reality based on my thinking that Johan will turn it around, that J-Bay will light it up, that Beltran will stay healthy and hold the form he showed while he was in the lineup last year, that David Wright will pull out another 30/30-like needs the Mets to be good. Over.

Washington Nationals, 59-103 (72):
Believe it or not, the Nats have other players besides Stephen Strasburg...I know I was shocked too. No, but really, the Nats are making some tremendous strides since they moved to DC. They were actually in the running for Mark Teixeira two years ago...when did you ever think the Nationals would be in on a major free agent? Ryan Zimmerman is going to have another huge season, and besides him, they have a bunch of wild cards (Elijah Dukes, Josh Willingham, Nyjer Morgan, Adam Dunn) who may pan out for them. All the focus will be on the rotation. As soon as Jason Marquis, John Lannan, and Scott Olsen struggle, it will only beg the question of how patient the Nats and their fans can be with Strasburg in the minors. Their bullpen will struggle as well, which will add to the need to get Drew Storen up as well. This team remains a year away, but Strasburg will get there at some point...that's going to be some exciting stuff. Under.

NL Central
St. Louis Cardinals, 91-71 (88):
The Cards stayed status quo this offseason, which is completely acceptable considering they won 91 games and their division. However, I bet their fans kind of wish they did something. They won a championship in '06, which only makes that fan base hungrier for more (any really good baseball city is like this after being deprived of a championship for a long time...Boston and Philly come to mind). I think Pujols gets them to 80 just by him being in the lineup. Wainwright and Carpenter are both tremendous, and the noise that they have made since the season ended was re-signing Matt Holliday...that was a smart move. Over.

Chicago Cubs, 83-78 (83):
Much like the Mets, it's almost frustrating how bad the Cubs have become. They should be a perennial 90-win team who should have the Cardinals and Brewers nipping at their heels. Now, they are looking up at both of those two teams, and may find themselves heading into a fourth place finish. I'm not sold on anyone outside of Derrek Lee, and unless a move is made, they will be stuck in neutral this season. Under.

Milwaukee Brewers, 80-82 (80.5):
I will be really shocked if the Brewers don't win 90 games this season. I'm thinking it's going to start out Cards/Brewers and end Cards/Brewers. The only question there is is whether or not they can win enough games to assure themselves of a wild card birth. The NL is wide open this year, and you don't need the best rotation to win. Braun and Fielder are the Manny/Papi combo of baseball now, and they have two real good young infielders in Casey McGehee and Alcides Escobar (big-time fantasy sleeper). Gallardo is an can only hope this doesn't turn into a Zack Grienke-like situation here. Over.

Cincinnati Reds, 78-84 (78):
This is a team that can change everything. They potentially could be that good. No one has the young bats like the Reds have (Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs). In addition, Brandon Phillips continues to be solid. Also, call me crazy, but I really like the O.C./Scott Rolen combo on the left side of the infield. The Harang/Bronson/Cueto/Homer Bailey combo could all put up 18 wins or 18 losses...none of it would surprise me. The big wild card is Aroldis Chapman. Cincinnati has to be in the bottom five locations I'm thinking a Cuban defect will land...and this is a guy you actually look like you may want to keep...the anti-Jose Contreras if you will. If he can get 150 innings in, the Reds could play spoiler to the Cards or Brewers hopes of the wild card. Over.

Houston Astros, 74-88 (77):
I'm thinking this is the year that the Astros finally descend to the bottom of the Central. What exactly happened here? It's like they bring Carlos Lee on board, and stand pat in terms of free agents for three years? I thought giving him $100 million would set them back...apparently it really set them back. Under.

Pittsburgh Pirates, 62-99 (71):
The Bucs are a team you can pull for because I see them perhaps getting some fans in the seats this year, much like the O's. Lots and lots of potential in the outfield with Lastings Milledge (who had one of the more schizo-seasons in recent memory), McCutchen, and Garrett Jones. They could be really good, or fail miserably. With Pedro Alvarez on the way, they may have a decent amount of pop in the lineup. Ryan Doumit is probably the most underrated catcher in baseball. Their pitching is suspect, but you have to come to expect that given the track record of Pirates' young pitchers blowing their arms out before they even get a chance to get situated. Over.

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers, 95-67 (84):
The Dodgers are extremely close to going Chicago Cubs on us and completely falling apart, and judging by the O/U figure, the word is out. A dominant outfield featuring a past-his-prime, but still amazingly effective Manny Ramirez, the best centerfielder in the game in Matt Kemp (by the way, that should be Jacoby's title...not like I'm bitter or anything), and Andre Ethier, who continues to fly under the collective radar. Clayton Kershaw is about as good as you can get in terms of a young ace...he's Tim Lincecum light for me. Billingsley is a solid #2, and with Broxton closing games, they're good with a lead. The rest of their bullpen is totally suspect, and their infield causes even more questions to come up. I believe this year could get bad, especially since there are three teams right on the Dodgers' heels. Under.

Colorado Rockies, 92-70 (83):
You were surprised the Rockies won 92 right? Tell me I'm not the only one who didn't see this happening. What happened was the Rocks got really good about two years before it was conceivable that they would be 90-win good. Their offense is so spread out. Tulowitzki is their best bat, but the drop-off after that is not big at all. The starting pitching staff is solid for the NL, and, surprisingly enough, they have one of the deepest bullpens in all of baseball. Over.

San Francisco Giants, 88-74 (83):
Here is my darkhorse. I'm looking up and down this lineup and through the pitching staff, and they seemingly have everything they need to win. Pablo Sandoval may contend for a batting title this year after a rookie campaign that saw him put up a .330-25-90 season. They possess a top-five 1-5 pitching rotation, with Madison Bumgarner, a guy who would likely be at least a #2 on most teams, in the #5 slot. I again have to emphasize that I love Brian Wilson. A guy named Brian Wilson throwing for a California makes a lot of sense. The best catching prospect in Buster Posey will see a little time this year, but his impact will be felt more in 2011. They have solid hitting, solid defense, utility guys, deep starting rotation, reliable closer...the chief concern I have is the bridge to get to Wilson, but other than that, you're looking at a team built for the postseason. Over.

San Diego Padres, 75-87 (71):
The Padres' fans will likely be taken hostage this year by the ongoing Adrian Gonzalez saga. I know I will sound biased when I say this, but they have got to trade him sooner rather than later, just as a way to get on with it. Kyle Blanks may have a nice semi-breakout year this season, and Heath Bell has been impressive in his short stint as the Padres' closer...other than that though, there really isn't a whole lot to say about the Pads. Under.

Arizona Diamondbacks, 70-92 (82):
As indicated with a O/U at 82, the D-Backs are in line for a gigantic bounce-back that may land them atop of the NL West. Much like the Mariners, if their 1-2-3 stays healthy (Brandon Webb is the key in this health equation), they could be the best in baseball. The offense can flat-out hit. Justin Upton is following the Evan Longoria career path of blowing up, signing a big contract, and continuing to blow least that's how I think it will go down. Miguel Montero has himself situated to have a monster year behind the plate. Add in the Chris Young/Conor Jackson/Mark Reynolds combination, and they are looking at at least four 25-homer guys. Qualls is solid in the 9th...D-Backs/Rockies/Giants/Brewers/Cardinals for three playoff spots...should be a wild ride this year. Over.

So there's a somewhat concise baseball preview there. I came in over .500 last year in terms of predictions, so I'm hopeful I can continue the positive momentum into this season. Hopefully I can get a fantasy baseball article up soon, as I really think I have a good grasp on things much like I did last year (eight teams, did not finish worse than 3rd). Next up though will be my first annual March Madness Dossier, which will break things down in terms of potential runs, sleepers, busts, and everything you'll need to over-analyze your brackets and finish in the middle of the pack in your pool (certain things you probably don't want to write or say aloud would include the last sentence). Anyway, I hope everyone stays relatively dry for the St. Patty's Day Parade in Southie, and everyone has a great week...I know I will. Peace.