2009 MLB Season Preview

Opening Day is in the books and what better time to deliver my 2009 MLB Season Preview post. This day definitely ranks among the the top 4-5 sports days of the year on par with the SuperBowl, March Madness Thursday, NHL/NBA Playoff openers and to a lesser extent Daytona 500 and Masters Sunday. It represents a sense of hope for 30 MLB teams all but 8 who will still be playing come October. My years of watching the game gives me some insight on what to expect this year. Without further adieu, my bold predictions for the upcoming season:

Breakout Players

  • SniderTravis Snider (TOR) – .300 hitter last year and hit close to .400 in the Spring. The power will come with patience for this 21 year-old
  • LindAdam Lind (TOR) – OK, I am slightly biased towards the Blue Jays but I really have a good feeling about these two young players. Seems to have snapped out of the sophomore funk with a respectable 2008 campaign. Lind should get plenty of playing time and RBI opportunities batting 5th in the Jays lineup
  • JonesAdam Jones (BAL) – Expecting a big breakout year as Jones should benefit from batting 5th similar to Lind. 15-20 HR, 70-80 RBI should be well within reach
  • SandovalPablo Sandoval (SF) – Probably won’t match the .345 pace from last year but will surely increase the power numbers batting 4th in the Giants order. 20 HR and 85 RBI would be a nice celing
  • GallardoYovani Gallardo (MIL) – Many thought last year would be the breakout year however a torn ACL did him in. Gallardo has the stuff to be the ace of the Brewers staff averaging 8 Ks/9 IP with a 3.35 career ERA, 1.27 WHIP. Expecting a solid 15 win season from this youngster

Sleeper Teams

  • Oakland A’s – Depends on the state of the starting rotation. Ace Justin Duchscherer had 2 starts all of last year yielding > 3 ER but will need to come back strong from the start of season DL stint. Eveland and Braden are the unknowns coming off a rough Spring but I like the Cabrera-Giambi-Holliday-Chavez middle part of the order and feel this team can compete in the weak AL West
  • Atlanta Braves – Tough to call a recent 14-time division winner a sleeper team however they are the odd one out among the Mets and Phillies in the NL East. I like the off-season acquisition of stalwart Derek Lowe. Youngsters Jair Jurrjens and Jordan Schafer have high ceilings and provide solid complimentary pieces to all-stars Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Staying healthy could open up a back-door wild-card entry in the NL
  • San Francisco Giants – The Giants need 1-2 more bats in the lineup to get into a more contender status however the pitching staff is fundamentally awesome from young stars to wily veterans – Lincecum, Cain, Zito, and the recently acquired Randy Johnson. I may be a dreamer but I see Zito starting to earn his paycheck and getting back to 13 W and ERA closer to 4.15. Pablo Sandoval is a star in the making and the Giants should be able pitch their way into contention in the weak NL West

Toronto Blue Jays outlook
I’ll be honest – I’m not expecting much this year. 4th in the AL East is almost expected at this point with too much money being thrown around above in the division. The Yankees and Red Sox have too much offensive firepower which should keep them in most games this year even when the starting pitching falters. I do expect the Rays to fall off a bit from last year being a young team, getting closer to 87 wins and missing out on the playoffs. The Orioles are a solid hitting team with a nice core comprising of Roberts-Jones-Markakis-Mora-Huff and should challenge the Jays for 4th. Many feel the Jays weakness is in the offense however I don’t believe that will be the case this year. A core group involving Rios-Wells-Lind-Rolen-Overbay-Snider should keep the Jays competitive all year. Injuries are always going to be a concern with Wells-Rolen but the new combination of Lind-Snider should relieve some of the run production load. Pitching is where the wheels fall off for the Jays this year with the whos who of Litsch-Purcey-Richmond-Romero rounding out the rotation after Roy Halladay. Its a far cry from the 2008 MLB ERA leading staff featuring Burnett, McGowan and Marcum all of whom are not on the active roster for 2009 Opening Day. The bullpen also has question marks with B.J. Ryan not being able to clock past 85 mph in the Spring. Scott Downs stands to takeover the closer role if Ryan continues to feel the after effects of Tommy John surgery. Its safe to say that it will be a trying season for the Jays however Rios-Lind-Snider provide a solid foundation for future development.

YankeesAL East – New York Yankees (money should be able to buy happiness with new acquisition Mark Teixeira bound to have a massive year with the wind blowing right-center in the new Yankee Stadium)
White SoxAL Central – Chicago White Sox (I like the existing power of Thome-Dye-Konerko and throw in potential breakout campaigns for Alexei Ramirez , Josh Fields and Chris Getz and you have yourself a division winner)
A'sAL West – Oakland A’s (someone has to win the division and I like Holliday playing for another contract)
Red SoxAL Wild-card – Boston Red Sox (have an outstanding 1-9 lineup but need Beckett to stay healthy and Dice-K to translate WBC magic into MLB success)

MetsNL East – New York Mets (bullpen issues appear to be resolved with the addition of Putz, KRod. Starters still a question after Johan however I’m expecting a huge power year from the core lineup including a MVP campaign from David Wright)
CardinalsNL Central – St. Louis Cardinals (rolling the dice on good things happening for Carpenter, Ludwick and Chris Perez)
DodgersNL West – Los Angeles Dodgers (yes the Giants have a shot but I’m sticking with the Dodgers and Ramirez-Martin-Kemp supplying enough run support and Kuroda to have a nice breakout campaign)
CubsNL Wild-card – Chicago Cubs (where are the world champion Phillies?? Too many holes in the pitching rotation if you ask me. Inflammation in the pitching elbow does not bode well for WS MVP Cole Hamels meanwhile, Brett Myers is not a #2 pitcher and Jamie Moyer is bound to fall off the wagon this year)

White SoxAL – (ALDS) NYY >> Oak, CHW >> Bos … (ALCS) CHW >> NYY
MetsNL – (NLDS) NYM >> Chc, Stl >> LA … (NLCS) NYM >> Stl

WORLD SERIES – White Sox beat the Mets in 7

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