Selasa, 03 April 2012

MLB Season Preview: Breakout Teams

As we continue our 2012 MLB season preview leading up to Opening Night Wednesday in Miami, we look at some teams that are bound to have breakout seasons.

Los Angeles Angels
The Angels made some big offseason acquisitions as they signed future Hall of Fame 1B Albert Pujols and talented SP CJ Wilson. The Angels now have one of the best rotations in baseball with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, CJ Wilson, and Ervin Santana being 1-4 in the rotation with the fifth spot up for grabs between Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards. The Angels also have an impressive bullpen with second-year closer Jordan Walden looking for another All-Star caliber season. The Angels also have tons of solid veteran relievers around Walden in Scott Downs, LaTroy Hawkins, Hisanori Takahashi, and Jason Isringhausen. One move that went under the radar for the Angels was the trade with the Rockies that brought them catcher Chris Iannetta. Iannetta is one of the most underrated catchers in baseball and he has his best season defensively last year as he only had 2 errors and threw out 30% of runners that tried to steal a base on him. After a rough 2010 season, Iannetta rebounded at the plate with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. Of course, Albert Pujols is definitely the star player for the Angels after signing a ten-year contract this offseason to come to LA. Pujols should put up the 40 home run 120 RBI season he normally does but he also will be an instant leader in the Angels' clubhouse and a role model for the younger players. The Angels infield is very talented defensively especially up the middle with Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. However, this defense may not be as good if Mark Trumbo is at the hot corner and not Alberto Callaspo. The Angels also have a outfield that is very good defensively as former center fielders Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter are in the corners with Peter Bourjos in center. The young Bourjos is very speedy and could be a very good table setter for the Angels this year as he will probably have 20 to 30 steals which can set up for guys like Pujols, DH/1B Kendrys Morales, and Torii Hunter. Lastly, the Angels have one of the best managers in baseball in Mike Scioscia. Scioscia has been the most successful manager in Angels history and he will able to take this team a long ways this season and make them World Series contenders. The Angels are definitely a team that is capable of winning this year's World Series.
Washington Nationals
Despite not signing Prince Fielder, the Nationals made some big moves this offseason as they upgraded their rotation by trading for ace Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson on a one-year deal. The Nationals rotation is very underrated as they have Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Jackson, and John Lannan as the five guys in the rotation in that order. The impressive part about this rotation is that all five of those guys had ERAs that were below 4. The Nationals have arguably the best rotation in the National League as the Giants, Cardinals and Phillies will also have an argument for that title. The Nationals also have a very good bullpen with one of the best closers in baseball in Drew Storen, the best setup man in the National League in Tyler Clippard, and very good middle relievers in Sean Burnett, Henry Rodriguez, and Brad Lidge. Wilson Ramos is one of the best young catcher in baseball and he has been able to learn from future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. Despite, sharing the catching duties with Rodriguez last year, Ramos was able to hit 15 HRs and drive in 52 RBIs in only 113 games. Adam LaRoche is looking to have a rebound after he was plagued with injuries last season. The Nationals have a dangerous young infield combo up the middle in 2B Danny Espinosa and SS Ian Desmond. Ryan Zimmerman is still the face of the franchise in DC despite the up-and-coming stars in Stephen Starsburg and Bryce Harper. Zimmerman signed a huge contract extension and he will once again prove why he is worth it with his defense and his offensive ability as you can expect 30 HRs and 100 RBIs from Zimmerman. Michael Morse will look to have another big season to prove he wasn't a fluke thoguh he will not be on the field for a couple of weeks due to injury. Center field is the big question for the Nationals but Bryce Harper could end up in center when he is called up this season. Jayson Werth will need to have a rebound year and I expect him to do so as he has now had some time to adjust to being with the Nationals. The Nationals have one of the most experienced managers in baseball in Davey Johnson. Johnson has been very successful in the past and he has had a full Spring Training with this team so I would expect them to be very good. Watch out for this Nationals team as I expect them to at least win a Wild Card spot.

San Francisco Giants
The Giants failed to get to the playoffs last year after winning the World Series the previous year. The Giants are a team that has a lot of potential to rebound as they have some young, up-and-coming position players to put around their dominate pitching staff. The Giants have Tim Lincecum and the recently extended Matt Cain as the first two in their rotation as there is probably not a 1-2 combo that is better in any rotation in baseball other than possibly the Phillies. Madison Bumgarner could do just as well this year as Lincecum and Cain as Bumgarner is one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Ryan Vogelsong will look to prove that last year was not just a fluke as he could very well have an All-Star caliber season this year. Barry Zito is the one question mark in this rotation as he could have a turnaround season this year. The Giants have a very good bullpen led by the beard, closer Brian Wilson. Wilson has been one of the best closers in baseball over the last few years as you can expect him to close out the game every night at a very high level of performance. The thing that will help this turnaround for the Giants is the return of catcher Buster Posey. Posey is arguably the best catcher in baseball when he is healthy and I expect big things from him this year as Posey should be key in turning around the Giants' offense. Aubrey Huff will have some pressure to perform as early season struggles could cause him to possibly lose his spot to Giants prospect Brandon Belt. With Freddy Sanchez out for a while, Emmanuel Burriss will be the starter at second base and should be on a temporary basis though Ryan Theriot could end up taking his spot if Burriss struggles. Brandon Crawford is a good young shortstop and he will look to have a breakout season this year. Pablo Sandoval got back in shape last year and showed why he is a very good, middle of the order hitter. The Giants improved their outfield by trading for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. Those two will immediately need to be key hitters in that lineup as Nate Schierholtz will look to put up solid numbers. Giants' outfield prospect Gary Brown could end up in the majors in September as the young speedster could make a huge impact. The Giants have one of the best managers in the outspoken Bruce Bochy who defends and stands up for his players. The Giants are back this year and they should be considered the favorite to win the NL West.

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