01 April 2009

The homestretch

Scant days to go before opening day is finally here, and, good God, the Royals aren't really giving Sidney Ponson a starting rotation slot to start the season, are they? Surely he won't do any better than Hochevar would. It's bad enough that Horacio Ramirez is being thrown into the rotation when he did all right out of the pen last year before the Royals turned him into High-A OF Paulo Orlando from the ChiSox. I thought going into Arizona this year that the Royals' rotation looked much more settled than last year when retreads like Brian Lawrence and Hideo Nomo were in the hunt. Now, we're getting close to breaking camp and have Fat Sidney and Ho-Ram potentially in spots 4 and 5. You can't blame Hochevar, who had a solid spring. His biggest problem may have simply been that he has options to burn. You CAN blame Brian Bannister, who has been the same ol' gas can he was in 2008 thus far in Arizona, but he had options to burn too and looks like he needs 'em. I like a rotation of Meche, Greinke, Davies, Hochevar and anyone-but-Ponson-or-Ramirez-and-maybe-Bannister at this point.

Some predictions for 2009: the Royals are better than '08, but not by leaps and bounds. I say 80 wins, tops, and my actual prediction going into spring was 76 wins. But after suffering through this decade as a Royals fan, 80 wins is almost like a playoff berth. Not quite, but almost. I've greatly overextended myself from a fantasy baseball standpoint with several teams on both Yahoo and ESPN. Thanks to those of you who are taking part in the Pipeline Fantasy Baseball league this season. I shortened the field to 10 teams, and we ended up with only two not in the "Pipeline family" I guess you could say. In the same way I had a good feeling about the Rays in my 2008 fantasy drafts, I have good feelings about.....the San Francisco Giants this year. This could be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay farther off the mark. They do start Bengie Molina at C, and the offense is gonna need the young guys like 1B Pablo Sandoval and OF Freddie Lewis to step up, but they've got what should be a good pitching staff. Tim Lincecum leads the way followed by Matt Cain, Randy Johnson coming off a solid season at age 44/45, Barry Zito still looking for a resurgence, and Jonathan Sanchez, who could be a good sleeper pick for a breakout season. The pen has some question marks that need to be answered but I can see some '08 Rays potential here. Maybe not to that extent, but maybe they will stay in contention??? Fred Lewis was one of my sleeper picks in a few leagues, along with Reds OF Chris Dickerson (who hopefully starts making some contact) and Jays OF Travis Snider. I'm also banking on good contributions from some mid-tier starters like the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda, the aforementioned Cain and the Tigers' Armando Galarraga. Just keep an eye on them, and the Giants. I'm jumping on the bandwagon, and there's plenty of room. They seem to be somewhat woefully underserved in the blog department, in terms of quantity, not quality. Nice stadium, great city, and they're now Bonds-free!

The Royals' roster is beginning to take its final shape. Ross Gload will Explode was shipped to the Marlins today for the ever popular PTBNL, and other moves were stated by the Star to be on tap soon. The Royals also seem serious about keeping Mark Teahen at 2B. If he keeps hitting and can improve on defense at all, I guess this is OK, although I'm still not averse to his being shipped out, too. One good bit of news on the minors front is that the Astros gave back Rule 5 pick reliever Gilbert de la Vara, who will be on Omaha's roster. I'll have a bigger preview of the minor league teams coming up after camp breaks and the rosters are settled. John Buck is also still on KC's roster, and there isn't much buzz that Brayan Pena is gonna take his backup C slot. Crap. With Gload gone, Ryan Shealy may have a shot at a bench role to back up the glove-deficient Mike Jacobs and Billy Butler at first base/DH. I'd actually like to see the Royals play Mike Aviles at second and find some serviceable SS for the first time in forever. You're telling me the Royals don't have enough trade fodder to bring in one serviceable SS? I don't think so. Dayton Moore needs to make it happen. Alex Gordon started out with another lackluster spring but has actually picked up the pace. We'll see if, like Teahen, that carries over into the regular season once the air thickens up going from Arizona to KC. I'm not a big David DeJesus fan but a DeJesus-Crisp-Guillen OF is fine at this point, although I can think of better ways to spend $12-13 million a year than on Jose. I've been strong on Aviles and the Mexicutioner in my fantasy drafts, also grabbed Coco, Butler, Greinke and Meche in one or two. It IS nice, though, for there to be at least some buzz around the Royals for once. Maybe the team even stays in contention into September. Maybe.

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