By Brian Maloney
Our fourth installment of previewing the Boston Red Sox continues. Here is Brian’s thoughts and analysis on both the cacther position and designated hitter.
The Red Sox decided as soon as Victor Martinez left the team that Jarrod Saltalamacchia was going to be the starting catcher for the 2011 season. “Salty” has been on General Manager Theo Epstein’s radar for years and Epstein was finally able to acquire him last season. Saltalamacchia has shown the ability to rake at the plate, yes, but defensively his game has been severely lacking. He even had to be sent back to the minors for a Major League 2-type reason: he couldn’t throw the ball back to the pitcher.
The Sox are banking on the fact that under the tutelage of Jason Varitek, Saltalamacchia will get the yips out of his game enough that his bat can be in the lineup every day. Varitek figures to get a start or two a week this season. The team knows what they have with Varitek: a serviceable backup who knows what he’s doing. Varitek will essentially be a player/coach this season, contributing where he can, being on the roster more for his understanding of the game at this point in his career.
The Sox additionally have two young catchers on the 40-man roster in Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito.
Wagner will start the season in Pawtucket, and assuming that he does not come out of the gates flat, he will make his debut in Boston at some point this season. Wagner is a great defensive catcher, with gap power that seems to be designed for Fenway.
Exposito projects to be better than Wagner in the long run, but he is a year or two behind in his development. Exposito has all the ability to be an everyday major league catcher, but could use a year or more in the minors for seasoning and fine-tuning.
The Sox always bring in a veteran catcher on a minor league deal, and this year Paul Hoover gets the call. Hoover is a journeyman with MLB experience and he could be called upon if the team decides that either of the young catchers is not ready.
A little bit farther down the roster is Ryan Lavarnway, who along with Exposito may be the most likely to be a long-term choice in Boston. Lavarnway ended last season in Portland, and will probably begin this year there as well. His future is based on how he develops over the next few years, as he has only been a full-time catcher since 2007. His raw ability is there, his brain is there; the Sox just have to teach him to put it all together.
Starter: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Backup: Jason Varitek
40-Man Roster: Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito
Hot Prospect(s): Ryan Lavarnway, Paul Hoover and Luis Exposito
The DH position will be surprisingly fluid this season. Of course, David Ortiz is the number one option here, but he will have to show that he can still hit to keep it. Another slow start to the season for Big Papi could end his tenure as the DH very quickly.
Mike Cameron could see a lot of time as the DH against left -handed pitchers as well.
Expect it to be a 70-30 split as the everyday DH for these two players. However, there are bats all over this lineup. It would not be surprising if, instead of a day off, position players got occasional days in the lineup as the DH.
Players like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia could all see a few games here to give the DH’s a breather. We won’t go in depth to potential minor league call-ups here, as realistically, nobody will get called solely to be the DH.
Starter: David Ortiz
Potentials: Mike Cameron, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia
By Chris Hurd
Ah yes, spring is in the air.
The NFL is in a labor dispute, the NBA is on its way to a labor dispute, the NHL is plodding along, and I am going to get 5-9 inches of snow tonight in Northern New Jersey (come on!!!).
With the NCAA Championship still a few days away, it is time to begin talking about the only sport left that America does not have to worry about, Major League Baseball. And as all good de-facto sports aficionados do at this time of year, it is time to tell you all who is going to make the Playoffs and the World Series.
Pay attention Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals fans, you are about to find out you can go home with some other teams right now. I mean really, why bother playing the season. But, I digress……….
I have to preface these picks by mentioning I am a Mets/National League fan (Noontime sports needed me to present a balanced MLB picture, you know)
The American League Playoff Picture:
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Texas Rangers
AL Wild Card: Chicago White Sox
The Logic: The East and the West were easy for me to call. Although there is the possibility of the Angels being better, I don’t think that they will be good enough down the stretch this season to get over the hump vs. the Rangers.
The Red Sox are the cream of the crop in the Al East, no doubt. The more interesting question that can be asked here is who will push them, the Rays or the Yankees? I would content that it will probably be the Yankees, but don’t count out the young Baltimore Orioles making a K.C. Royals type run of 2003.
The Central was a tougher call because I think that the wild card will come out the this particular division and who do I have winning that special prize…Ozzie Guillen’s Chicago White Sox. Detroit’s staff seems to be the tops in the Central and will break the recent stranglehold over the division that the Minnesota Twins have had.
The National League Playoff Picture:
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
NL West: San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds or Atlanta Braves
The Logic: Again, I had a very easy time calling the East and the West in the National League. Philadelphia’s pitching staff makes them the favorite, but the absence of Chase Utley for any extended period of time should be a cause for concern.
The Atlanta Braves will give the Phillies a run, and of course, my New York Mets will be eliminated from playoff contention after Opening Day!
The World Series champion San Francisco Giants have what it takes to return to the playoffs in 2011, with the same pitching staff intact from last season. I would not be surprised if the West is a close race, but we will have to see how the young arms of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner will hold up after a short off season.
In the Central, I am going with the popular pick this off-season, the “Brew-Crew” (Milwaukee Brewers). Great moves in the offseason brining in Zack Grenke and Shaun Marcum, and you have to believe that Prince Fielder will have a big season heading into a free agent year.
The Reds should be good enough to challenge the Brewers for a playoff spot, but I cannot rule out the Braves from making a return this season too. They had a chance last year and have the pieces to get over the hump. The Reds play the Braves for the last time in a mid-July series, so I have to think at that point both squads will be scoreboard watching for the rest of the season.
Let’s leave it at that for now, but I mean, I don’t want to dampen every team’s hopes by calling the World Series now, so I’ll save that for another blog, but in the meantime … Be Good All!
|MLB 2011 Predictions||Matt Noonan||Dan Rubin||Stacey Kilpatrick||Andy Lindberg|
|AL East||BostonRed Sox||New York Yankees||New York Yankees||BostonRed Sox|
|AL Central||Chicago White Sox||Chicago White Sox||Minnesota Twins||Chicago White Sox|
|AL West||Oakland Athletics||Texas Rangers||Texas Rangers||Oakland Athletics|
|AL Wildcard||New York Yankees||BostonRed Sox||BostonRed Sox||Minnesota Twins|
|NL East||Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia Phillies|
|NL Central||St. Louis Cardinals||Chicago Cubs||St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis Cardinals|
|NL West||San Fran. Giants||San Fran. Giants||San Fran.Giants||Colorado Rockies|
|NL Wildcard||Chicago Cubs||Milwaukee Brewers||Cincinnati Reds||Atlanta Braves|
|World Series||Boston vs. Philadelphia||NY vs. Philadelphia||NY vs. San Fran.||Boston vs. Atlanta|
|W.S. Winner||BostonRed Sox||Philadelphia Philies||New York Yankees||BostonRed Sox|
|MLB 2011 Predictions||Kevin Tuve||Brian Willwerth||Brian Maloney|
|AL East||BostonRed Sox||BostonRed Sox||BostonRed Sox|
|AL Central||Minnesota Twins||Detroit Tigers||Minnesota Twins|
|AL West||Oakland Athletics||Los Angles Angels||Oakland Athletics|
|AL Wildcard||New York Yankees||Tampa Bay Rays||New York Yankees|
|NL East||Philadelphia Phillies||Atlanta Braves||Philadelphia Phillies|
|NL Central||Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee Brewers||Cincinnati Reds|
|NL West||San Fran. Giants||Los Angles Dodgers||Colorado Rockies|
|NL Wildcard||Atlanta Braves||San Fran. Giants||Milwaukee Brewers|
|World Series||Boston vs. Philadelphia||Atlanta vs. L.A. Angels||Boston vs. Colorado|
|W.S. Winner||Philadelphia Phillies||Los Angles Angels||BostonRed Sox|
It’s certainly hard to believe, but here we are, the last day of March in 2011, wow! Well, while we relish the fact that one-third of the year is over, here is the Daily Noontime for March 31, 2011, have a fantastic day!
* With the MLB season beginning on Thursday, a bold prediction has been released that this year, stadiums will sell roughly 22.5 million hot dogs.
* The NFL continues to remain in a lockout and while the NBA is right behind them, MLB commissioner Bud Selig sure hopes his league won’t follow that same path.
* Buffalo Sabres rookie goaltender Jhonas Enroth may have filled the big shoes of Ryan Miller on Wednesday, but he did everything he could against the New York Rangers to help his team earn an important, 1-0 victory.
* Raper and part owner of the New Jersey Nets, Jay-Z is now under investigation with the NBA, which doesn’t sound good.
* With the lockout occurring and things still not going according to plan, it just seems that there is little sympathy for the NFL.
Games to Watch:
* Toronto at Boston (NHL) – 7:00pm eastern
* Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (NHL) – 7:30pm eastern
* Boston at San Antonio (NBA) – 8:00pm eastern
* Dallas at San Jose (NHL) – 10:30pm eastern
* Dallas at Los Angles Lakers (NBA) – 10:30pm eastern
Video of the Day:
Nothing wrong when a young child scores on a professional soccer player, right?