As pitchers and catchers get closer to reporting, Five Tool Prospects takes a closer look how each team faired this off-season and their outlook for the 2010 campaign.
Listed in order of projected finish
1st – New York Yankees (A-) – How do you make an unstoppable force even better? First, you add one of the most dynamic, young center fielders in the game, Curtis Granderson, who will hit 35 home runs next year thanks to the gail force winds that blow out to right field at the new Yankee Stadium. Then, throw Javier Vasquez into the back-end of your already dominating rotation, who, despite having just a slightly above average track record in the American League, is guaranteed to eat innings and work deep into games on a consistent basis. Next, bring in Nick Johnson, the discount on-base machine who hits left-handed. Finally, kudos to Brian Cashman for calling the bluff of Scott Boras on Johnny Damon. The market is flooded with veteran bats for greatly reduced prices and if Damon doesn’t budge, don’t be surprised is Jermaine Dye is the Yankee left-fielder in 2010 for less than $6 million.
2nd – Boston Red Sox (C+) – The Red Sox put all their marbles in John Lackey’s basket, and while he is a big-time sign, I’m skeptical he can reproduce a sub 4.00 ERA in a much tougher AL East Division, especially at Fenway and given the Yankees new offensive ballpark. Newcomer Marco Scutaro will be a better offensive option at shortstop than the BoSox have had at shortstop in the past, but putting Mike Cameron in center field and moving Jacoby Ellsbury to left field isn’t going to make up for losing Jason Bay. Pumping another $9 million into Adrian Beltre at 3rd base where they are already on the hook for $12 million for Mike Lowell in 2010 is just an obnoxious abuse of resources and luxury almost no other team could have. But they still have a good squad and should compete for the wild card again.
3rd – Baltimore Orioles (B+) – Orioles fans are loving Andy McPhail, who continues to make the best moves possible given his circumstances. They kicked some dead weight to the curb, declining the option on 3B Melvin Mora and filling his spot with maximum production for the money Miguel Tejada at just $6 million. Made a trade to bring in SP Kevin Millwood to lead a young pitching staff, and signed LHP Mike Gonzalez who will go a long way to help the back-end of their bullpen. They also signed another low-risk, high-reward free agent slugger in Garrett Atkins, who will bounce back from a bad year with a 20-HR 80-RBI performance for the O’s. A crop of young players like LHP Brian Matusz, C Matt Wieters, 3B Josh Bell, and RHP Chris Tillman are the result of great drafting decisions over the past few years.
4th – Tampa Bay Rays (F) – Exit 2B Iwamura, OF Gross, C Zaun, RHPs Nelson, Bradford, and more. Enter closer Rafael Soriano and C Kelly Shoppach. Soriano will help lock up the back-end of the bullpen for the pitching-strong Rays, who still have several top prospects down on the farm. However, offensively they are still in trouble with less than zero production in either corner outfield spot and DH, which is going to put a lot of pressure on top prospect Desmond Jennings (or lesser prospect Matt Joyce). There are some underpriced veteran bats still out there on the market that they will have to make a run at scooping up if they want to avoid a big step backward in 2010.
5th – Toronto Blue Jays (B) – The Blue Jays finally pulled off the band-aid and traded away franchise player Roy Halladay this off-season, but scored a pretty good haul of prospects. Their Major League team will suffer this season, but score in the long-run with players like 1B Brett Wallace and RHP Kyle Drabek now in their system. Replacing Marco Scutaro with Alex Gonzalez at shortstop won’t help these cellar dwellers for 2010.