Archive for February, 2012

NBA Post Allstar game Playoff predictions

Posted: 02/28/2012 by levcohen in Basketball

I am going to skip the week in review this week, since it was a short week, as the All Star game took up the weekend. Instead, I will give my postseason predictions. Also, I will say who I think will win each significant award.

*This is assuming no major trades happen from here on out

East playoff teams:

1. Chicago Bulls (49-17)

2. Miami Heat (49-17)

3. Orlando Magic (41-25)

4. Indiana Pacers (40-26)

5. Philadelphia 76ers (39-27)

6. New York Knicks (36-30)

7. Atlanta Hawks (34-32)

8. Boston Celtics (32-34)

West playoff teams:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-15)

2. LA Clippers (45-21)

3. San Antonio Spurs (44-22)

4. Dallas Mavericks (41-25)

5. Memphis Grizzlies (39-27)

6. LA Lakers (37-29)

7. Denver Nuggets (35-31)

8. Portland Trailblazers (35-31)

East playoff predictions:

Bulls over Celtics in 5- The aging Celtics prove no match against a healthy Chicago team. The Celts win a game in game 4 only because of spectacular play from PG Rajon Rondo. Celtics start rebuilding, Bulls move on.

Heat over Hawks in 4- Heat bulldoze the Hawks. Al Horford is back for the Hawks, but looks rusty, and Chris Bosh eats him up. The Heat win all 4 games by at least 5 points, and aren’t threatened in the 4th quarter. Hawks inconsistency is still obvious. Heat move on.

Knicks over Magic in 7- Magic can’t defend the pick and roll game of Tyson Chandler and Jeremy Lin. Chandler steps up in the playoffs, and gives the Knicks some great production. This won’t help the Magic in their quest of holding onto Dwight Howard, who wants a championship in a big city. Magic turn their focus to resigning Howard, while the Knicks move on.

Sixers over Pacers in 7- Very even matchup, but a healthy Spencer Hawes gives Philly the advantage. Jrue Holliday steps up, and becomes a clutch shooter, great for the playoffs. The Pacers now look to sign hometown boy Eric Gordon to a long contract, an addition that would likely push them near elite levels. Philly moves on to face the Bulls.

2nd round:

Bulls over Sixers in 6- 76ers won’t go down without a fight, but Rose will scorch them. The experience and defensive prowess of the Bulls will be too much, and they will move on to the conference finals.

Heat over Knicks in 5- The Heat will match up well against the Knicks. Mario Chalmers is a great defender who will match up against Lin, and LeBron James will score a ton of points against ‘Melo. The Heat move on to an inevitable matchup against the Bulls.

Conference Finals:

Heat over Bulls in 7: The outcome is inevitable, the Heat are just too good. They move on to the NBA finals.

Western Conference playoff predictions:

Thunder over Blazers in 6- While this might be a closer series than most might think, the Thunder, led by ASG MVP Kevin Durant, will pull through, winning games 4, 5, and 6 after a shaky start.

Nuggets over Clippers in 7- This will be an upset. The Clippers have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but I believe that Ty Lawson has the speed and ability to at least somewhat shut down Paul, while Nene and Kenneth Faried down low will try to stop Griffin. Add in some Danilo Gallinari 3’s, and the Nuggets are moving on.

Spurs over Lakers in 7- The Spurs will get healthy at just the right time, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli will neutralize Kobe. Andrew Bynum will play extremely well, but won’t get enough of a contribution from teammates to win a series. Spurs move on.

Grizzlies over Mavericks in 4- The Grizzlies will continue to surprise teams, and will beat the aging Mavericks in just 4 games. Zach Randolph should be healthy by then, giving the Grizz a tremendous big 4 of Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Randolph, and Marc Gasol. Add in some sweet shots from OJ Mayo, and this is a very talented team.

Second round:

Thunder over Grizzlies in 5- While the Grizzlies are talented, they don’t have the team to compete against Durant and Co. in a best of 7 series.

Nuggets over Spurs in 6- The #7 seed moves on. With youth and speed, they will shock the Spurs, forcing a meeting against the favored Thunder.

Conference Final:

Nuggets over Thunder in 7- The Thunder are shocked by the Nuggets. OKC still at times looks like a 2 man team, and the depth of Denver will surprise them. Despite the best efforts from Durant and Westbrook, the Nuggets will move on to the finals in a shocker.

NBA FINALS:

Heat over Nuggets in 6- The Nuggets run ends in the finals, against a team that matches up well against them. The big 3 will get a ring.

NBA finals MVP: Mario Chalmers

 

 

Now for the awards:

MVP: LeBron James

Defensive player of the year: Dwight Howard

Rookie of the year: Kyrie Irving

MIP: Jeremy Lin

 

Scoring leader: Kobe Bryant (28.7 PPG)

Assists leader: Rajon Rondo (10.7 APG)

Rebounds leader: Dwight Howard (13.7 RPG)

Steals leader: Mike Conley (2.6 SPG)

Blocks leader: Serge Ibaka (2.9 BPG)

 

 

NBA All star game recap

Posted: 02/27/2012 by levcohen in Basketball

I would do the NBA week in review, but I’m too tired so I’ll do it tomorrow. Today will be the recap of the NBA Allstar game.

The final score was 152-149, while my prediction was 142-134. I’d say it was a decent guess (as the popular pick seemed to be the East), but midway through the 4th quarter it looked like I would be much closer. As for the MVP, I got that one right, as Kevin Durant didn’t disappoint with 36 points.

Here is how each player who played well played. I will rank them in order of how I think they played, with the best at the to, and when I get to the end of the list of players who played well will stop (I don’t feel like listing the players who played poorly):

Western Conference:

Kevin Durant- Player of the game. Team high 36 points.
Kobe Bryant- Scored nearly 30 points with some valuable trash talking. He also broke his nose.
Russell Westbrook- 21 points in 27 minutes with great efficiency.
Kevin Love- The 3 point champ scored 17 points in under 20 minutes and hit 2 3’s.
Chris Paul- 12 assists say it all.
Blake Griffin- Had some nice dunks, but had a bad +/- (worst in the game, even on the winning team).
Tony Parker- 6 points and 4 assists. He didn’t get much PT.

The rest of the guys didn’t play all that well..

Eastern Conference:

Dwayne Wade- Triple double says it all.
LeBron James- 36 points, but if only he didn’t turn the ball over with seconds left.
Deron Williams- He scored 20 points in just 18 minutes on 11 shots. Talk about efficient.
Derrick Rose- Didn’t play much because of his injury, but still ended up with an extremely efficient night.
Rajon Rondo- While he didn’t play much, he had 8 assists in 15 minutes, which is enough to give him the nod here.
Andre Iguodala-  Scored 12 points on 7 shots, including some nice dunks.
Carmelo Anthony- Played a lot and shot 7-15 from the field, which is a decent showing. The reason he is here is because he didn’t turn the ball over once, which is a shocker.

I think that the rest of the players played well below their talent level.

NBA All star game predictions

Posted: 02/26/2012 by levcohen in Basketball

Today I will predict what will happen in the NBA All star game, and see who has the edge at each position.

The PG’s:

Eastern Conference:

Derrick Rose (starter)
Deron Williams
Rajon Rondo

Western Conference:

Chris Paul (starter)
Tony Parker
Russell Westbrook
Steve Nash

Edge: The Western Conference gets the edge in this one. Derrick Rose has been hampered by injuries, and Chris Paul has teammate Blake Griffin also starting. Rose probably won’t play very many minute because of the injury. As for the backups, the West gets the edge again. While I’d rather have Williams than Westbrook, Parker is having a career year and Nash brings veteran leadership (and also 11 assists per game).

The SG’s:

Eastern Conference:

Dwayne Wade (starter)
Andre Iguodala

Western Conference:

Kobe Bryant (starter)

Edge: The edge goes to the East. Wade has picked up his game recently, and Iguodala is a great defender who should shadow Kobe for part of the game. Of course, Kobe is pretty good himself.

The SF’s:

Eastern Conference:

Carmelo Anthony (starter)
Paul Pierce
Luol Deng

Western Conference:

Kevin Durant (starter)

Edge: Kevin Durant gets the edge over 3 players in the East. He should have an easy time against the under achieving and overrated ‘Melo. Pierce and Deng are good players, but won’t get all that much playing time. Pierce is aging, but can still hit 3’s well, and can pass the ball as well as any swing man. Deng plays second fiddle to Rose, but, with Rose injured, stepped up with great play. In the end, Durant looks like a great pick for player of the game, as he has a great all around skill set.

The PF’s:

Eastern Conference:

LeBron James (starter)
Chris Bosh

Western Conference:

Blake Griffin (starter)
LaMarcus Aldridge
Dirk Nowitzki

Edge: First off, James won’t be playing his natural position, SF. He still has a big edge over Griffin. Bosh is also having a great year, but Aldridge probably gets the edge over him. Nowitzki didn’t deserve to make the all star team this year. Overall, an edge to the East because LeBron James is probably the best player in the NBA.

The C’s:

Eastern Conference:

Dwight Howard (starter)
Roy Hibbert

Western Conference:

Andrew Bynum (starter)
Kevin Love
Marc Gasol

The edge: Dwight Howard is an absolute monster, but because of total depth the West gets the edge. Howard is obviously an upgrade over Bynum, but Marc Gasol has had a much better season than Roy Hibbert. Kevin Love pushes the West over the top, not only because he is a monster down low, but also because he can hit 3’s. He won the 3 point contest, which is extremely rare for a big man.

The outcome:

142-134 WEST.

All Star game MVP:

Kevin Durant

 

 

 

 

 

MLB Preseason Power Rankings, 1-3

Posted: 02/22/2012 by levcohen in Baseball

Now for the top 3 teams..

3. New York Yankees:

Notable additions: SP Michael Pineda, SP Hiroki Kuroda
Notable subtractions: C Jesus Montero, SP Hector Noesi, AJ Burnett

This is an improved team from last year, when they had the most regular season wins in the AL. They added a budding ace in Pineda, and a solid 3 starter in Kuroda. They needed to upgrade pitching, so they went out and did it. However, it is an aging team. Led by aging stars such as Derrick Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and Mark Teixera, their time is now. I think they will have another superb offensive season, with Jeter, Rodriguez, Teixera, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson anchoring a stacked lineup. However, when they make the playoffs they need their pitching at the top of it’s game. While it is improved, their starting pitchers don’t quite match up with the likes of the Angels and the Rays. It looks like the Yankees should cruise to at least 93 wins this year, and they can definitely make things happen in the playoffs.

2. Texas Rangers:

Notable additions: SP Yu Darvish, RP Joe Nathan
Notable subtractions: SP C.J. Wilson, RP Darren Oliver

For the second year in a row, the Rangers lost in the World Series. This time, they lost by one strike. In the offseason, they lost their ace in CJ Wilson. What’s worse is that he went to division rival the Angels. They also added a new closer in Joe Nathan. Not only will Nathan close, but he will allow talented Neftali Feliz to go into the rotation, which should help. The rotation is aced by Yu Darvish. The Rangers got him for a steep price from Japan in the offseason. Colby Lewis, Derrick Holland, Feliz, and Alexei Ogando close out a rotation that has a lot of potential. Holland is a streaky pitcher, and the last 2 are former relievers who have tons of talent. The hitters stayed exactly the same for the Rangers. They were in the running for Prince Fielder, but couldn’t match the Tigers offer. However, their offense should be just fine, even without Fielder. They have well above average hitters at every position except for 1st base and center field. With guys like Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz, they are stacked.

1. Los Angeles Angels

Notable additions: 1B Albert Pujols, SP C.J. Wilson, RP LaTroy Hawkins, C Chris Iannetta
Notable subtractions: RP Fernando Rodney, C Jeff Mathis

The Angels can compete with any team, any day. They were a playoff contender before this year. Now, they have added a new catcher, a division rival’s ace, and a future hall of famer. The catcher is Chris Iannetta, who is a decent catcher who will hit home runs. The pitcher is CJ Wilson. Wilson will be the 3rd best pitcher in a superb rotation led by Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. Ervin Santana, the #4 pitcher, would be a lot of team’s #2. And, of course, they added Albert Pujols, who has been the best hitter in the 2000’s. Without Pujols, they were a lackluster offense. With him, the Angels have an above average offense to go along with their pitching. Along with Pujols, they have consistent Howie Kendrick at 2B and speedy Erick Aybar at SS. Rookie of the year contender Mark Trumbo is expected to make a move over to third base with the arrival of Pujols. The outfield is very crowded. With the likes of Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Torri Hunter, and top prospect Mike Trout nobody knows who will be out on opening day. My prediction is Hunter, Bourjos and Wells out there. However, I think that Wells will struggle and Trout will take over mid season. Regardless of who is playing in the outfield, the Angels have the best team in the MLB.

MLB Preseason power rankings- 4-10.

Posted: 02/21/2012 by levcohen in Baseball

Today will be 4-10 teams in the power rankings.

10.  Atlanta Braves:

Notable additions: IF Jack Wilson
Notable subtractions: SP Derek Lowe, SS Alex Gonzalez

The Braves didn’t do much this offseason, except dump 2 players (Lowe and Gonzalez) to make room for two prospects (Julio Teheran [top prospect] or Randall Delgado in place of Lowe, and Tyler Pastornicky at SS). Their team is immensely talented, and they will have superb pitching for many years to come.  They have mostly young, talented SP in: Tim Hudson (only exception), Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Teheran, Delgado, Vizcaino… The list goes on and on. However, their pitchers have had injury problems. Hudson will miss the first month of 2012, and Hanson has had many surgeries recently. Jurrjens is also somewhat injury prone. On the offensive side, the Braves need a big bounce back from talented Jason Hayward. After he had a superb rookie year, he had trouble in his second year. The Braves have many talented players, including Brian McCann at C, and Freddie Freeman at 1B. However, if they want to win the NL East, they will need more from their offense. If Heyward and Martin Prado bounce back, they could have a huge year.

9. Boston Red Sox:

Notable additions: RP Andrew Bailey, RP Mark Melancon, OF Ryan Sweeney, OF Cody Ross, IF Nick Punto, C Kelly Shoppach
Notable subtractions: RP Jonathan Papelbon, IF Marco Scutaro, IF Jed Lowrie, OF Josh Reddick, SP Erik Bedard, OF J.D. Drew*

This team is extremely talented. With a strong lineup, they have the talent to go all the way. At first base they have powerful Adrian Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia mans second base, and Kevin Youkillis plays the hot corner. In the outfield, the Sox have Carl Crawford (he needs a bounce back year), and 30/30 hitter Jacoby Ellsbury. Their pitching is worse than the two AL East teams above them. They have Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, and Clay Bucholtz is a good #3 starter, but they don’t have much else. Josh Bard may try to start this year, but who knows how he will do. The Sox lost closer Jonathan Paplebon, but responded by trading for talented but injury prone Andrew Bailey. For them to get to the postseason, they will need to stay healthy, and must get improved efforts from the catcher and shortstop positions.

8. Arizona Diamondbacks:

Notable additions: SP Trevor Cahill, OF Jason Kubel, RP Craig Breslow, RP Takashi Saito
Notable subtractions: SP Jarrod Parker

The Diamondbacks surprisingly made the playoffs last season, and should get back to it. They improved their already solid roster, but need some more offensive efforts from someone not named Justin Upton. They have Miguel Montero behind the plate, and promising Paul Goldschmidt playing first. Aaron Hill and Ryan Roberts provide ample power at 2B and 3B, and Stephen Drew should be close to 100% following his gruesome injury last season. In the outfield, they have Upton, Chris Young, and newly acquired Jason Kubel. The acquisition of Trevor Cahill bolsters an already solid pitching staff. He brings them into the top 10 of pitching staffs. Their bullpen should also be improved with Breslow and Saito. Overall, a very solid team. The D-backs should easily win the weak NL West.

7. Detroit Tigers:

Notable additions: 1B Prince Fielder, RP Octavio Dotel
Notable subtractions: RP Joel Zumaya

Yes, the Tigers are improved, and yes, they are the clear cut AL Central leader. But I’m not ready to automatically make them World Series favorites just because they added Prince Fielder. Here is why:
1. The signing of Fielder means Miguel Cabrera is moving to 3B. You do not want to see Miguel Cabrera at third base. What is he, 500 pounds?

2. Victor Martinez, last year’s DH, is out for the season. He was the Tigers second best hitter last year.

3. The Tigers outfield is below average. Delmon Young (injury prone), Austin Jackson (fast but below average hitter), and Brandon Boesch (very streaky) will not cut it against the best teams.

4. The new DH, Ryan Raburn, is nothing special.

5. The starting pitching is not on par with the best teams in the AL, even with Justin Verlander. Doug Fister and Max Scherzer are fine, but any rotation with Rick Porcello in it is pretty sad. On the bright side, top prospect Justin Turner should be the #5 pitcher.

6. They have no relieving depth. Outside of Jose Valverde, Jonaqin Benoit, and Octavio Dotel, I don’t see anyone who I would feel comfortable with.

All that aside, they still do have Cabrera and Fielder in the heart of the order, which should by itself make them a contender. Add Verlander and you have a team that other teams are scared of.

6. Tampa Bay Rays:

Notable additions: 1B Carlos Peña, DH Luke Scott, RP Fernando Rodney, IF Jeff Keppinger, C Jose Molina, RP Burke Badenhop, RP Josh Lueke
Notable subtractions: C John Jaso, C Kelly Shoppach, 1B Casey Kotchman*, OF Johnny Damon*

The Rays keep on doing it. Even with less money than the big teams, they are great drafters and continue to have contending teams. They have great building blocks with Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and BJ Upton. On the mound they are led by David Price and James Shields. They also have up and comers in Jeremy Hellickson, and the guy everyone should get excited about; Matt Moore. He arguably has better stuff than Stephen Strasburg, and doesn’t rely on his very fast fastball. This would be the perfect team, but they have some holes in their lineup. The SS is less than stellar Sean Rodgriguez, and they have Jose Molina at C (he can’t hit). Matt Joyce isn’t a great outfielder either. Look for their pitching to carry them to a lot of wins.

5. Cincinnati Reds:

Notable additions: SP Mat Latos, OF Ryan Ludwick, RP Ryan Madson, RP Sean Marshall, IF Wilson Valdez, UT Willie Harris, SP Jeff Francis
Notable subtractions: SP Edinson Volquez, RP Francisco Cordero, SP Travis Wood, 1B Yonder Alonso

The Reds are now the obvious favorites in the NL Central, if not the National League. They got much better this offseason, as they upgraded starting pitching, relief, and added depth. Mat Latos joins a rotation that might be below average. He will be the ace on a team that also has Johnny Cueto. The back of the rotation is a little suspect. They have Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey. However, Aroldis Chapman (he threw the fastest pitch ever recorded) should be ready to take over a SP spot, probably in place of Arroyo. The bullpen is fantastic. Led by new closer Ryan Madson, it is very deep and has everything you would have asked for from a bullpen. The Reds have Joey Votto at 1B. He is obviously the best 1B in the NL. At second base, they have Brandon Phillips and at third they have the aging Scott Rolen. Playing SS is young Zack Cozart. At C, they have Ryan Hanigan, but he will probably be benched for the more talented Devin Mesoraco. In the outfield, the Reds have Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and a platoon of Ludwick and Chad Heisey. This is a very good team that should make a run for the pennant.

4. Philadelphia Phillies:

Notable additions: RP Jonathan Papelbon, IF Ty Wigginton, 1B Jim Thome, RP Chad Qualls, RP Dontrelle Willis
Notable subtractions: RP Ryan Madson, SP Roy Oswalt, OF Raul Ibañez

The Phillies core continues to age. They didn’t do a whole lot to improve their offense, and, with Ryan Howard missing the first month or two, they desperately need bounce back seasons from Chase Utley and Placido Polanco. A breakout season from Dominic Brown would work, too. However, they are still the NL favorites because of their pitching. Three aces is extremely hard to beat. Roy Halladay is (still) the best pitcher in the MLB, in my opinion. He is definitely the most consistent. Cliff Lee also may well be the best lefty in the majors. Cole Hamels remains the Phils best young player (Hunter Pence is a close second). They need to lock him up to a long term deal. Vance Worley is also a tremendous 4 starter. The Phillies window on this core is slowly closing, but they still have one or two elite years left in them.

 

The top 3 will be tomorrow

 

NBA Week in review

Posted: 02/20/2012 by levcohen in Basketball

I am trying a new type of power rankings. This week, I will rank all 30 teams but with shorter commentary about each..

1. San Antonio Spurs (22-9, last week #2): They have a 10 game win streak.. ’nuff said.

2. Miami Heat (25-7, last week #3):  6 wins in a row. That includes 5 in a row on the ROAD of at least 15 points. Quite impressive.

3. Chicago Bulls (26-8, last week #1): Lost to Nets  but sill have the most wins in the NBA.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-7, last week #4): Even with Spurs emergence, they have the best record in the West and are the most feared team in their conference.

5. Orlando Magic (20-12): Stumbled against the Heat, but are streaking lately, including a solid win against the slumping 76ers.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (19-10): Nearly broke the Spurs winning streak. Have recent wins over the Trailblazers and 76ers (both on the road).

7. Dallas Mavericks (20-12): Lots of solid wins recently, defeating the Trailblazers, Clippers, Nuggets, and 76ers (starting to see a pattern here). They lost to Linsanity though.

8. Philadelphia 76ers (20-12, last week #5): Should be lower, but they haven’t proved that they consistently beat good teams. Continue to win against the bad ones, though.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (18-14): 4 game win streak. They have recently beat the Nuggets and the Pacers.

10. Indiana Pacers (19-12): Continue to beat the teams they should, but recently lost 5 straight.

11. Los Angeles Lakers (18-13): Kobe continues to light it up. Recent wins against the Celtics and Hawks.

12. New York Knicks (16-16): LINSANITY!!!! They have won 9 of 10.

13. Houston Rockets (18-14): Huge recent wins against the Thunder and Jazz.

14. Atlanta Hawks (19-13): Hawks are slumping. 7 losses in their last 10.

15. Portland Trailblazers (17-15): They have lost 5 of 8. Just blew out the Hawks by 20.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-16): On a 3 game win streak including wins against the Rockets and, you guessed it, the 76ers.

17. Boston Celtics (15-15): They have lost 3 in a row, but before that beat the Bulls. Lost to the rising Pistons twice.

18. Denver Nuggets (17-15): They have lost 8 of 10 but had a big win over Indiana recently.

19. Utah Jazz (15-15): Slumping recently, but a .500 record is decent.

20. Detroit Pistons (11-22): Winners of 3 straight and 7 of 10, including 2 wins against the Celtics.

21. Phoenix Suns (13-19): Steve Nash can carry the Suns far, but not into the playoffs.

22. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-17): Pretty good season for the Cavs, who have been carried by rookie Kyrie Irving.

23. Milwaukee Bucks (13-18): Only team they seem to be able to beat consistently is the Heat.

24. Golden State Warriors (11-17): Led by high scoring guards Steph Curry and Monta Ellis. Have won 5 of their last 10.

25. Sacramento Kings (10-21): Before a 5 game win streak, they looked explosive and decent for a young team.

26. New Orleans Hornets (7-23): They have won 3 straight, which is nearly half their wins. They are the only team to beat LINSANITY in the last 10 games.

27. Toronto Raptors (9-23): They have lost 7 of 8, with a win against the Celtics in between.

28. Washington Wizards (7-24): Need to find a way to get the talented team going, although they have good wins against the Blazers and Pistons recently.

29. New Jersey Nets (9-24): Top priority is to find a way to convince Deron Williams to stay. Their best chance would be Dwight Howard.

30. Charlotte Bobcats (4-27): At least they recently stopped their 16 game losing streak. Kemba Walker is a lone bright spot.

 

 

MLB preseason power rankings- 11-20

Posted: 02/19/2012 by levcohen in Baseball

Now for the 11-20 MLB power rankings..

20: Los Angeles Dodgers: 

Notable additions: SP Aaron Harang, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., SP Chris Capuano, 2B Mark Ellis
Notable subtractions: SP Hiroki Kuroda, RP Jonathan Broxton, 3B Casey Blake, SP Dana Eveland, C Rod Barajas

The Dodgers definitely have 2 good players to build around, and they are both young. Many people think CF Matt Kemp should have won the MVP, and SP Matt Kershaw won the Cy young. However, they don’t really have many good supporting players. Longtime SP Hiroki Kuroda is gone, and as is veteran 3B Casey Blake. The Dodgers added Aaron Harang to compensate for the loss of Kuroda, and added a couple decent utility players in Ellis and Hairston Jr. To compete, they need better hitters around Kemp. OF Andre Ethier and SS Dee Gordon are good places to start. The Dodgers should aim for around .500, but realistically the probably will win 70-75 games.

19: Pittsburgh Pirates:

Notable additions: SP Erik Bedard, 3B Casey McGehee, SS Clint Barmes, C Rod Barajas
Notable subtractions: RP Jose Veras

The Pirates continue to improve their lineup. They now have some great young talents, and good prospects who are a year away. Andrew McCutchen is a great franchise player, and around him the Pirates have Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and an immensely talented Pedro Alvarez. For the Pirates to succeed this year, they need bounce back years from newly acquired McGehee (may play 1B) and incumbent 3B Alvarez. Their rotation is also very young, and they will have great prospects providing help along the way. Next year the Pirates may be in the top half of the MLB, but they should add yet another losing season to their already record streak.

18: Milwaukee Brewers (assuming MVP Ryan Braun gets his 50 game PED suspension):

Notable additions: 3B Aramis Ramirez, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Norichika Aoki, RP Jose Veras
Notable subtractions: 1B Prince Fielder, RP LaTroy Hawins, RP Takashi Saito, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B Casey McGehee

The Brewers lost Prince Fielder, as was expected. Fielder has been, is, and will be a fantastic #3 or #4 hitter for years to come. He is obviously a huge loss for the Brew Crew. However, what might be an even bigger loss is the first 50 games of the season, because MVP and team leader Ryan Braun tested positive for PED’s. The Brewers lost their 3-5 hitters, as Casey Mcgehee also left. Without those guys, the hitting will be below average, and the Brewers will have to rely on their pitchers. Without Braun, expect a slightly below .500 year. With him, they should be over .500.

17. Cleveland Indians:

Notable additions: SP Derek Lowe, SP Kevin Slowey, OF Aaron Cunningham, Casey Kotchman
Notable subtractions: OF Austin Kearns, DH Jim Thome, OF Kosuke Fukudome

The Indians came close to making the playoffs last year, but faded at the end. They have a solid pitching staff, headed by Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson. The rest of their rotation is shaky. They have new additions in Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey, but those guys are probably worse than the league average at this point. Their infield is promising, led by Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall. In the outfield they have Shin-soo Choo. This is about a league average team. They have average pitching, and slightly above averaging hitting. That will lead to a season around .500

16. Colorado Rockies:

Notable additions: OF Michael Cuddyer, IF Marco Scutaro, 3B Casey Blake, SP Tyler Chatwood, SP Guillermo Moscoso, OF Tyler Colvin, SP Josh Outman, IF D.J. LeMahieu, SP Jamie Moyer
Notable subtractions: OF Seth Smith, 3B Ian Stewart, RP Huston Street, 2B Mark Ellis, C Chris Iannetta

The Rockies have a very promising team. They have great hitters, led by SS Troy Tulowitzki. However, their pitching staff is without much experience, and they don’t have a good, experienced catcher. The Rockies are probably the first team so far to have true playoff aspirations, and if they do make it they can do some damage. To get to the playoffs they will need great pitching, which probably won’t happen this year. Over .500 isn’t out of the question though.

15. Washington Nationals:

Notable additions: SP Gio Gonzalez, RP Brad Lidge, UT Mark DeRosa
Notable subtractions: SP Collin Balester, SP Brad Peacock, SP Tom Milone

The Nats are no longer the NL East’s pushover, but they still have a year to go before truly contending for a division crown. They have a great pitching staff, led by Stephen Strasburg and new addition Gio Gonzalez. They also have above average 3-4 starters in Jordan Zimmerman and Edwin Jackson. They also have a promising lineup. At C, they have now veteran Wilson Ramos. Their big hole is at 1B, where they have next to nothing. However, the rest of their infield has potential. 2B Danny Espinosa has 25-25 potential, and 3B Ryan Zimmerman is the best hitter in the lineup.. In the outfield, the Nats will get half a season of Bryce Harper. Jayson Werth should have a bounceback year, and Michael Morse is a great OF. However, they need experience. Playing a few meaningful games in September would be nice, and they might have a shot at the playoffs if a second wild card slot is put in.

14. Toronto Blue Jays:

Notable additions: RP Sergio Santos, RP Francisco Cordero, RP Darren Oliver, RP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, C Jeff Mathis
Notable subtractions: RP Frank Francisco, RP Jon Rauch, UT Mark Teahen

If only the Jays were in a weaker division. As it is, they are in arguably the best in baseball. They definitely have a more talented team than 14th, but with the Sox, Yanks and Rays ahead of them, they can only win so many games. They addressed their biggest weakness, at closer. They added Santos and Cordero, who should compete for the closer spot. They have Joey Bats (Jose Bautista) who is good for 45+ homers. They have a good all around team. They will win 82-87 games.
13. San Francisco Giants:

Notable additions: OF Angel Pagan, OF Melky Cabrera, SS Ryan Theriot
Notable subtractions: OF Cody Ross, OF Carlos Beltran, SP Jonathan Sanchez, RP Ramon Ramirez, IF Miguel Tejada*, IF Orlando Cabrera*

The Giants need some bats. They added Melky Cabrera, but let’s face it. Melky won’t be enough. Their overall pitching is still very good, very much the same as the one that won the WS 2 years ago (minus Jonathan Sanchez). They have good SP, good RP, and a good closer. However, they still don’t have that one bat that can push them over the top. They thought Carlos Beltran would be fine, but he turned out badly. The Giants need Buster Posey healthy, and they need all their bats on top of their game. Angel Pagan was also a good FA add, but probably won’t be enough for this offense. The pitching could carry them to 85 wins.

12. Miami Marlins:

Notable additions: SS Jose Reyes, SP Mark Buehrle, RP Heath Bell, SP Carlos Zambrano, SP Wade LeBlanc, OF Austin Kearns, UT Greg Dobbs
Notable subtractions: SP Chris Volstad, RP Burke Badenhop

The Marlins added a lot in the offseason. They signed Reyes, Buehrle and Bell to major FA deals, and traded for Zambrano. That might not be enough for them to make it to the playoffs, though. The pitching rotation is still below average. Josh Johnson has tremendous skills, but is always injured. They need a healthy year from JJ. Buehrle fits well into the #2 spot, but Zambrano and LeBlanc are probably no better than league average this year. Anibal Sanchez is another good pitcher, who should be their #3. On the offensive side, the Marlins have some great pieces. Jose Reyes and a happy Hanley Ramirez will be a great SS-3B tandem. The Marlins have some bashers in the OF, led by Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison. They also have a great utility player in Emilio Bonifacio. If JJ stays healthy, they could be up for 85-90 wins.

11. St. Louis Cardinals:

Notable additions: OF Carlos Beltran, RP J.C. Romero
Notable subtractions: 1B Albert Pujols, IF Nick Punto, RP Octavio Dotel, SP Edwin Jackson*

The Cards lost their best player, but that doesn’t mean they will fall out of the playoff pitcher. They get ace Adam Wainwright back from Tommy John surgery, and he should be as good as ever (although you never know with TJ). They also added corner outfielder Carlos Beltran, so Lance Berkman could slide over to 1B. They did lose a solid starter in Jackson. This team won’t be as good as WS champs last year, but should contend again even without Pujols.