March 2016

National League Predictions

Opinions certainly differ regarding pennant predictions. It happens at this time every year. There really are a number of very good teams in baseball. There are a number of mediocre teams and some at the beginning stages of rebuilding. Or in their third iteration of rebuilding.

Since I am now part of the staff at TodaysKnuckleball.com, I was asked to complete my predictions on a staff spreadsheet. I was surprised at the diversity of opinions. That’s a good thing.

Without further explanation, by division, here are my picks for the National League:

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

New York Mets- I’m of the old school I still believe that good pitching beats good hitting. I think the Mets have more than good pitching. I think they have great pitching. They have a staff that should help them avoid a losing streak. Any from among Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, or even Bartolo Colon can stop a losing skid. I am a bit concerned about the long-term health of Harvey, but what a rotation they have compiled. Frankly, the hitting isn’t too shabby either. I like that Yoenis Cespedes has parked his home run bat on their doorstep. Neil Walker is still and underrated second baseman IMO. The Mets to squeak by the Nationals.

Washington Nationals- Few players generate the impact of Bryce Harper. I can’t imagine what Harper will produce when he’s in his chronological prime. And what damage will a healthy Anthony Rendon provide the offense? If he’s healthy all year, watch out. He can really hit the gaps with long, loud doubles. Plenty of them will feet over the fence. Add in a healthy Ryan Zimmerman and the speed of Ben Revere and we can talk about a team that could fight the Mets all season. The only pitcher that may be better than Max Scherzer may be Clayton Kershaw. And I’m really bullish on Stephen Strasburg to have a dynamite year. Add Gio Gonzalez to the mix and the Nationals could be a very well balanced, full-season contender.

Miami Marlins- Healthy once again, Giancarlo Stanton could hit 50 home runs. Do we know yet if Justin Bour can sustain the same type of solid season he had last year? I’m thinking he’ll reduce the strikeouts and increase the home runs by a few. And I have always liked Christian Yelich. This year is no exception. He’ll hit for average. And about having Jose Fernandez leading the pitching staff after he proved himself sound and healthy last year after surgery. The pitching can’t match the Mets or Nationals.

Atlanta Braves- The club is putting everything in place for their move to a new home. They have been collecting pitchers like I used to collect baseball cards when I was a kid. Some of those kids will deliver. Not just yet. I don’t see them competing in the division for a while. I do think Braves fans are going to love Ender Inciarte. He could become a fixture in Atlanta for years. Despite a lack of protection in the lineup, I’m very bullish on Freddie Freeman to have a monster season.

Philadelphia Phillies- Another rebuilding club, I think the Phillies may have waited too long to tear down the old barn. But they finally did. Watch out for young third baseman Maikel Franco. He could be a a true star as soon as this year. Cesar Hernandez is a bit of a sleeper infielder for me. He can hit and run.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs- I feel sorry for the Cubs brass and the Cubs fans. It seems everywhere I turn all I hear is Cubs this and Cubs that. Can they meet the hype? I’m not sure. I’ll say it right here, right now. I don’t like the pitching depth. But man, can they rake. I do believe Kris Bryant will reduce his strikeouts. I think Kyle Schwarber is the real deal. And along with Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo is an all-world first baseman. Not to mention Jason Heyward adds a tremendous dimension to their defense. Add in a stellar Addison Russell and the stability of newly acquired Ben Zobrist and the offense is awesome. They’re so good Jorge Soler can’t get playing time on a regular basis. And how would you like to have a guy like Javier Baez hanging around when healthy?

Pittsburgh Pirates- What will it take for the Pirates to climb another step? I think they lost quite a few quality players like Neil Walker, Joakim Soria and Pedro Alvarez. They represented some skills that come in handy. Walker will be missed. I do like the bat that John Jaso may be able to offer. Pitching is solid. Few young studs have as much upside as the gritty Gerrit Cole. I do like Cole and Liriano. I also like the bullpen.
Juan Nicasio could be a sleeper for the rotation. I think the Pirates pithing is thin. But when you have an outfield of McCutchen, Marte and Polanco it may be just enough to catapult the club to a great season. Those three may be the best outfield in baseball.

St. Louis Cardinals- Well, this is the first year in my memory that I have the Cardinals slated this low in their division. I think the Cubs and Pirates are better. The Cardinals slip may be showing a bit. Wainwright is another year older. Garcia has had injuries in the past. What about Michael Wacha? Can he stay healthy? I’m suspect about the pitching. I do like Randal Grichuk to break out this year, and Stephen Piscotty is a professional hitter that will get better and better. Matt Carpenter never ceases to amaze. He’s an All Star caliber player. But shortstop? Losing Jhonny Peralta hurts.
Kolten Wong may rise to a new tier of second baseman with a full skill set.

Milwaukee Brewers- In the midst of their rebuilding project, they have some very exciting young players. Many, like Orlando Arcia are still in development. But I do want to see what Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Rymer Lirano and Ramon Flores can do with playing time. Yadiel Rivera is fun to watch. They may get a boatload if they can move jonathan Lucroy and/or Ryan Braun, two players with value to a contender.

Cincinnati Reds- I have watched the Reds a great deal this spring. Their outfield of the future could be very good once they promote Jesse Winker. They’ll have guys like Scott Schebler, Winker and Billy Hamilton among others. Jose Peraza should take over second base once Brandon Phillips is gone. With Peraza and Hamilton, the duo could steal 100 or more bases with ease. If they can get on base. The Reds should concentrate on getting their pitching in order for the future. It isn’t there yet.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

San Francisco Giants- Last time I looked this was an even year. You know what that means. They win in even years. The pitching has been bolstered with the additions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to follow Madison Bumgarner in the rotation. That’s a solid threesome to lead them to the division title. Add to that the offense provided by sparkplug Hunter Pence and the top of the order energy of Denard Span and the team looks very solid. The very underrated Brandon Crawford is a superb shortstop. Can Joe Panik’s back hold up? Can Matt Duffy produce again? I like the Giants. I like the bullpen, too. And most importantly, I like the combination of Bruce Bochy as the manager and Dave Righetti as the pitching coach. Both are stellar!

Los Angeles Dodgers- I’m very concerned about the lack of pitching depth unless some of their potential starting pitchers get healthy in a hurry. They will go as far as the pitching beyond Clayton Kershaw carries them. I still like the offense to score lots of runs in that park. Howie Kendrick is still very solid and should be a huge run producer when he returns from injury. I also like Yasiel Puig to prove his critics wrong. Adrian Gonzalez is very, very dangerous at the plate. The bullpen is set at the back end with Kenley Jansen. And finally, they have a true budding star in Corey Seager at shortstop. I am not worried about his knee. Not yet, at least.

Arizona Diamondbacks- I do like Zack Greinke a great deal. I don’t think he can math his Dodgers numbers when pitching half his games at Chase Field. I don’t like the rest of the rotation other than Patrick Corbin. They just don’t have enough pitching. They traded some fantastic players and prospects to get Shelby Miller. I think they’ll miss the players they traded. I do like the outfield with star center fielder A J Pollock as the anchor. But I wonder who gets the playing time between Socrates Brito, Yasmany Tomas, David Peralta and even slugger Peter O’Brien. Who plays in the infield? Is it Nick Ahmed and Jean Segura at short and second? Where does Phil Gosselin fit? How about Chris Owings? Can Jake Lamb hit lefties? Lots of questions. But man, this team has position player depth. I do think Brito will have a tremendous year. If he plays.

Colorado Rockies- Nolan Arenado is fantastic. No doubt about it. He is a tremendous hitter and a tremendous defender. I love watching him play. Arenado/Cargo/LeMahieu/Blackmon/Story and on and on. The team is lethal at the plate and fun to watch. Pitching? Hello, this is Coors Field. Meh.

San Diego Padres- I feel badly for the Padres fans. Why? Because the new front office tore down the club a year ago and it didn’t work. It’s like the paint is peeling off the house already. I do like Matt Kemp to have a solid year. Travis Jankowski is a sleeper for me. But the Padres? Wait until next year.

Thank you for reading my work at TodaysKnuckleball.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Your support of my work is much appreciated.

Tomorrow: The American League

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Spring Training Tour-Colorado Rockies

It really is hard to believe that this is the last week of Spring Training. That really is both good and bad news. The good news is the regular season begins soon. The bad news is that the wonderful excitement and atmosphere of Spring Training is coming to an end. It was really great. Both in Florida and here in Arizona. The venues were packed with fans rooting for their favorite teams. The concession stands were packed with fans gobbling up fan favorite food from the start of the games until the last at-bat. Beer, hot dogs, peanuts, Kettle corn, noodles, lemonade, pizza, burgers and on and on and on. I rarely eat at the concession stands, but the new bacon cheeseburger at the Goodyear Park is outstanding. Really good flavor. I’ll miss it.

I watched the Rockies play the Dbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

This is the time of spring when many more regulars dot the lineups. And that was the case with the Rockies.

Chris Rusin started the game for Colorado. He reminded me of former Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis at the end of Francis’ time with the Rockies. Rusin threw only one pitch at 90 mph in the time I was watching. Most of the time he was in the mid-80’s with a variety of off-speed and breaking balls that didn’t always find the strike zone. That 90 mph pitch was to Paul Goldschmidt. Anyway, Rusin was hit a bit and his command was off. I don’t see him as a viable starter.

I can’t describe how great a hitter Nolan Arenado is. He may not get all the press as some other All Star types, but Arenado has put on a show this spring in Arizona. He hit another homer yesterday to add to his first inning single. The man has such a sweet, measured swing. The ball just flies off his bat. He makes excellent contact and has improved his approach to breaking balls. Arenado is great as a defender as well. It really is his team now that Troy Tulowitzki has departed for Toronto. Yes, Carlos Gonzalez and Arenado form a great one/two punch. Mix in Charlie Blackmon (also underrated) and D J LeMahieu (also underrated) and the Rockies have a superb offensive nucleus, as always.

Keep your eye on Mark Reynolds. What kind of home run total might he have in Coors Field if he gets regular playing time? I think he will likely only hit against lefties, but he can do some serious damage. I’ve seen him hit some amazingly high and long home runs.

Trevor Story is having a monster spring. He is the likely shortstop on opening day. He’ll bring a solid bat, a good glove and a real love of the game each and every day. He has the tools to keep the job and perhaps usher in a trade for the now suspended Jose’ Reyes. What happens with Reyes in his Hawaiian legal issues is the big unknown. But if the Rockies have to play without Reyes or even trade him, the team will be well stocked with Story and Cristhian Adames holding down the job in the future.

The catching corps remains really deep with Nick Hundley, Tom Murphy, Dustin Garneau and former Indians catcher Tony Wolters all on the roster. I think Murphy has some real offensive upside with power.

I think both Blackmon and LeMahieu shocked a bit last year with their ability to hit so well and steal bases. I’m not sure both will equal their break out seasons, but they are reliable and fairly consistent. The team will score runs both at home and on the road. But can they pitch?

How does one pitch in Coors Field? I have figured out there are only two paths to pitching success at Coors IMO. First, a pitcher can overpower the opposition with 95 and above fastballs that are up in the zone. They have to yield swings and misses from the opposition. Strikeouts are crucial. Of course, the other way is to induce plenty of ground balls. The Rockies have had sinker ball pitcher after sinker ball pitcher on their roster. There is no getting around it. Getting movement on fastballs and breaking balls is critical. Anything coming in straight will leave straight. Straight to the huge gaps in the outfield. Straight to the wind tunnel in right center. But balls fly for both teams. Not just against Rockies pitchers. But Rockies pitchers do have to pitch half their games there at Coors. Regardless of the launching pad, it is a great, great place to watch a game. I love going to Coors.

I believe a couple of adjustments are being made to the height of the fence in two areas of the outfield. The higher chain link fences may keep some balls in the park. But that means some of the Rockies hitters will get some impact from the new height as well.

Everything has been tried regarding improving the Rockies pitching woes. Humidor is installed. This pitcher is signed. That pitcher is acquired. At the end of the day-the answer is probably simple. The team has to keep plugging away, pound the ball, score runs and hope the pitching staff can contain the opposition. And the Rockies have to win on the road. There really are no pitching excuses at most of the road parks. Chase Field in Phoenix is one exception in the National League West. The Dbacks pitchers face many of the same concerns as their MLB brethren from Colorado. Chase Field is a hitter’s park. Period. But the altitude isn’t as severe as Coors Field.

I hope the Rockies fans get to enjoy some of the brightest, most exciting offensive players on the planet. Appreciate Arenado, Cargo, LeMahieu, Blackmon, Story, Parra and others for the excitement they bring. The pitchers will do their best to keep the team in the game. But it isn’t easy.

Thanks for reading my new column at TodaysKnuckleball.com (no apestrophe in todays) And thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

This is my last team blog from Spring Training. Next up: My pennant predictions.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

My spring look at the San Francisco Giants

There is something about the Giants Spring Training facilities in Scottsdale that makes it stand out from all the rest. It really is special. One of the older parks in the Valley Of The Sun, the home of the Giants is a constant sea of orange and black on game days. Some of the most passionate fans in baseball flock to the downtown Scottsdale area to take in the sights, sounds, scents and the special scene created in the area. Restaurants and watering holes do a fantastic business. Little carts carrying fans can be seen roaming the streets as the different types of food compete for everyone’s attention.
The park itself has every imaginable food and drink stand. A huge section in right field is devoted to fans that pay a premium to sit, eat, drink and watch the game with their friends. It really is a happening.

So while virtually every Spring Training venue in both Florida and Arizona get huge boosts in the month of March, an entire city gets lifted on its shoulders and is the focal point of the lives of thousands and thousands of fans, day in and day out. Even on off days, Giants fans mingle and munch along Scottsdale Boulevard in Old Town Scottsdale.

On the field, the Giants have produced another exciting roster for those diehard fans.
If they stay healthy, the Giants should be right in the center of the National League West pennant race.

Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto have assumed new roles in the rotation behind ace Madison Bumgarner. It gives the Giants a solid top three in their rotation. Their AT&T home park plays large for hitters, giving Samardzija and Cueto a comfort level. In the game I scouted, Jake Peavy was the starter. He had his cutter working well and provided some quality innings against a mixture of White Sox veterans and prospects.
Peavy has to stay healthy with a strong and pain free back, solid arm strength and confidence in his command. He needs to provide at least six solid innings a start and keep his team in the game.

I do think Chris Heston is going to be crucial to the Giants. If Matt Cain or any of the other starters should falter, Heston will be the man. He’ll be important to the club. Maybe sooner than later.

And that brings me to my biggest issue with San Francisco. IMO they don’t have enough pitching depth to weather a rotation storm.

One my favorite Giants prospects is Mac Williamson. He started in left field and had difficulty tracking balls hit into the high, bright Arizona sky. He started the spring hitting very well, but has tailed off. He didn’t make the opening day roster, but Williamson has power enough to break open a close game. I think we’ll see him in San Francisco before the season ends.

I was impressed with Kelby Tomlinson who played third base in this game. He flashed some very quick hands and feet on hard hit ground balls to third. His agility and reaction times were superb in this game. He did scuffle with balls hit in the air due to the high sky, but his range and arm strength are very solid at the hot corner. I think he can hit a bit as well. Will he have the power and batting average required of a third baseman? I really don’t know.

The catching situation is a bit of a concern. Buster Posey was scratched from the game and an official report on his condition may reveal nothing serious. But backup catcher Andrew Susac remains on the shelf. If he can’t go on opening day, Trevor Brown will get the call as the second catcher. He caught the game I watched and certainly served as a good shepherd for his pitcher.

To me, Brandon Crawford is one of the most underrated players in the game. He is an outstanding defender. And he can hit. He also hits with power. Few people outside of San Francisco ever talk about Crawford when shortstops are discussed. For me, he is one of the core players on the club and a very stabilizing infielder. One of his qualities is an ability to hit in the clutch. I really like Crawford. A lot.

My favorite of all the Giants is Hunter Pence. He’s a fan favorite as well. I was with the Astros during the time Pence was with Houston. He has awkward fundamentals, to put it mildly. But man, can he play. Hits well. Fields well. Is a team leader. Gets that impact knock. If he keeps his health this year, Pence could lead the Giants right through the postseason. He’s that good, and a bit underrated as well. Especially in fantasy drafts.

The new catalyst at the top of the order is Denard Span. He should be able to set the table for the bigger bats further down the order. Span has to use his speed and attempt to steal in order for the Giants to realize his value. The team isn’t loaded with power, so the “small ball” run creation model will be important. Along with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy, they provide excellent on-base guys for the thumpers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share my opinion of why I think the Giants are always contenders. Always in play. I believe they have the best manager in the game in Bruce Bochy. He knows how to handle his players. He knows how to handle pitching. He lets everyone play, using his entire roster and keeping them fresh. He is aided by an outstanding pitching coach in Dave Righetti, one of the best there is. To me, that combination is worth multiple victories every year.

Next blog: Colorado Rockies

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

And please—introduce yourself to my new column at Todaysknuckleball.com. (there is no apostrophe in todays). I’ll be writing scouting reports for SportsRag.com that appear at Todaysknuckleball. I have a four part series running starting today on scouting. That will be followed by traditional prospect scouting reports. Thanks so much.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Spring Training Look at the Milwaukee Brewers

I love going to Maryvale Baseball Park to watch Brewers Spring Training games.
There is something very “special” about the place. It looks different than the state of the art fabulous parks that are now dotting the landscape in Arizona. Yes, it has some age, but Maryvale Baseball Park is well maintained for the most part and it really is very fan friendly. Every seat has a perfect view of the field. There is an intimacy and “family” type environment throughout.

Maryvale is also the home of the finest kettle popcorn I’ve ever eaten. Big, full bags of kettlecorn always find their way into my car and arrive home as a treat that my wife really loves. The walkway of Maryvale Baseball Park has a war of scents every day. Popcorn vs. Noodles. Most of the time the popcorn wins.

The press box is not the most up to date, but it has plenty of room for all the writers and an annex next door to handle the spillover. But there is one small problem. The press box does not offer any water—bottled or otherwise. Yikes!

The Brewers team I saw in their game against the Kansas City Royals looked like it could be representative of the opening day lineup. Although the Brewers staff still has some decisions to make on outfielders and the relief corps, modt of the positions are settled. There are lots of young, eager and promising players on the roster.

Gone from last year are players like Khris Davis, Adam Lind, Francisco Rodrigues, Jean Segura and Logan Schafer. Those could accumulate to be big, big losses. But for a team that is in the first real phase of rebuilding under new general manager David Stearns, the task is likely exciting for all involved and requires patience. Who doesn’t like to watch young prospect players come of age from a baseball sense?

New Brewers include guys like Chris Carter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jonathan Villar, Chase Anderson and Aaron Hill among a host of others.

I was stunned at how fast a Chris Carter line drive left the ball park in left-center field. It got out In a blink of an eye. Carter’s strength was evident as his short, quick swing met the pitch perfectly on the barrel of the bat. The baseball may have been dented as it sailed in the air. It was really amazing. Carter could hit a ton of home runs with that swing. If I were on the mound he would never see a fastball. If he adjusts to off-speed and breaking ball pitches, hats off to him. But until he makes that adjustment consistently, he’ll have to hit my secondary pitches. The man is lethal against fastballs. Carter struck out 151 times in 391 at-bats last year for Houston. And now he takes his .199 batting average to Milwaukee. But the power is undeniable.

Another former Astro is young Domingo Santana. Santana played in only 14 games for Houston last season with another 38 for the Brewers after the trade. It looks like he has won a job as the right fielder for the Crew. There really is lots to like with him.
He should be able to get better and better with the bat as he gains experience against quality major league pitching. I caution that fans and his manager will have to be patient with Santana. While the tools are evident he lacks experience as an every day player against the best pitching in the world.

Ryan Braun’s health remains a concern. From hand issues to now his bad back, Braun has been showing signs of wear and tear of late. I don’t really know how long his baseball shelf life will be. Is there enough left in his bat to make an impact? How many games will he play? I think we are in the midst of a time when Braun wants to prove that he can be a mentor to the young Brewers and that he can still hit. My jury hasn’t returned a verdict yet. While I think he still has “it” I’m not as certain as I was in the off-season. Braun’s nagging issues concern me.

I do like Jonathan Villar a great deal as a potential base stealer. And with Jean Segura now playing in Arizona, it looks to me like Villar may be a place holder until the club is certain that the shortstop of the future is ready. That would be Orlando Arcia-a really fine prospect. But keep your eye on Yadiel Rivera, another young middle-infielder who may hit and play his way onto the club. I can see a future middle-infield of Arcia and Rivera. For now, though, I think Villar gets lots of playing time. I just hope he gets the green light to attempt to steal. I think there are more stolen bases from him than we’ve seen in his past.

While I write about Rivera, Scooter Gennett is having a fantastic offensive spring. He is hitting so well that he can be a real spark at the top of the Brewers order. Gennett plays with energy and is a real gamer. I think the middle-infield of the Brewers will be a true strength for a long time going forward.

Someone will have to take over at third base. Right now, the position seems to belong to Aaron Hill. He will provide some veteran stability, but he won’t be the long-term answer. Maybe one of the guys I’ve already mentioned or a player like Garin Cecchini can catch fire and give the Brewers the third baseman they need long-term. Colin Walsh and Andy Wilkins are also on the 40-man. Somewhere among all those corner infielders will emerge.

The outfield is also loaded with prospects. Keon Broxton, has opened lots of eyes. Someone will will the center field job. Will it be Niewenhuis? Young Keon Broxton? And will former Padres outfielder (now injured) Rymer Liriano find a role with the club?

What happens to the catching position? Will Jonathan Lucroy be traded for even more young major league ready players? If not now, will he make it with the club past the July trading deadline? I don’t have the answer to that. But I do know I like his backup catcher a great deal. Every time I see him play, catcher Martin Maldonado gets a big, meaningful hit. I think their catching situation will be fine. Maybe it’s time to see what Lucroy can fetch in trade. I remind myself that among the young studs the Brewers have collected is Jacob Nottingham, a really, really solid hitting prospect catcher. He’s just not quite ready. But he projects to be a very good long-term replacement for Lucroy when the time does arrive.

Wily Peralta got the start in the game I scouted. He looked really sharp. He wasn’t overpowering, but he got into a great rhythm and did the job. If he can last six innings I think the pen is strong enough to preserve a victory. The pitching staff is young and eager to succeed. But I still don’t know exactly who closes? Is it a committee? Is it Will Smith? Is it Jeremy Jeffress?

So there are questions to be answered in the next week. Outfielders? Relievers? Middle-infielders? Closer? But that is to be expected with a team in transition.

Overall, I think the Brewers will be better than some might expect. There is energy and hope. Talent, power and speed. There are also strikeouts and inexperience. There is also a very young pitching staff without a true ace. But it’ll be fun.

Brewers fans are among the best in baseball. They support their team. They know the game. They have fun. They cheer at the sausage races. And this year, they have to just enjoy watching talented young men improve game to game right in front of their eyes.
Patience and sticking with their team as it matures can be challenging, but also very rewarding as the team and the fans bond together.

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m Done. For now.

 

Spring Training Tour-Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals are among the most popular teams training in Arizona. They are drawing big crowds both at home in Surprise and on the road. Wherever the Royals play the stands are a sea of blue. That’s what happens to winning teams. And the Royals do, indeed win. Their brand of baseball is comprised of solid enough pitching, timely hitting, good fundamental defense and speed that puts pressure on the opposing defense. Lots and lots of speed. The Royals score runs and prevent runs-the two basic components of winning baseball.

Gone from their World Championship team are top notch players like pitcher Johnny Cueto, outfielder Alex Rios and the super versatile Ben Zobrist.

Pitchers Ian Kennedy, Mike Minor and Joakim Soria join the club to help bolster the pitching staff.

Much has to happen for the Royals to return to their lofty position atop the world of baseball. As is always the case, teams always gun for the big guys. And the Royals are now the big guys.

The nucleus of the club is still in place. After being patient for years and waiting for Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to fulfill their potential, the Royals are now experiencing the type of production those three can provide. And they’ve been doing it now for the past few years. That trio holds a boatload of RBIs and runs scored in their control. With Lorenzo Cain added to that threesome making it four stellar players at the top of the lineup, the Royals remain dangerous once again.

We may not have yet seen the best of Cain. He can do it all. He hits for average, his power continues to increase, he runs well enough to steal bases and he plays outstanding defense in center field. He may even add a few more home runs to increase from the 16 he belted last year. Cain stole 28 bases in 2016. If he has his legs and doesn’t encounter hamstring issues, he could easily top 30.

Paulo Orlando may be a strange name to many. He is targeted to split playing time with the very speedy Jarod Dyson once Dyson returns from injury. That could be as soon as the last week of Spring Training. With spotty playing time last year, Dyson stole 26 bases. That should increase this year. And it should add even more pressure to the opposing pitcher.

Orlando, the right-handed hitting side of the Dyson/Orlando platoon is a good player with an average skill set. Without one glaring tool to anchor his game, Orlando is a steady and reliable outfielder with a bat that should hover around .275. I think both Dyson and Orlando will eventually make way for former first round athlete Bubba Starling, who is improving his contact rate and plate discipline every time I see him. But Starling’s time is in the future, not just yet.

Actually, add Reymond Fuentes to the mix for an outfield position in competition with Dyson and Orlando. Fuentes was drafted by the Red Sox and traded to the Padres. He’s now in the outfield mix with the Royals. A left-handed hitter, Fuentes also brings more speed and a barrel of the bat hitting approach. So he, Orlando and Dyson may all be seeking big league playing time in the outfield. One outfield role remains to be filled as Gordon will patrol left and Cain is a mainstay in center.

Kendrys Morales is getting playing time at first base, as he did in the game I scouted against Cleveland this week. Morales will serve as the primary DH, but he could spell Hosmer at first, opening a spot for Fuentes as the DH.

While there are lots of mix and match opportunities for the Royals, the key to their success will be the play of the defense and their pitching.

Alcedes Escobar is about as sure-handed a shortstop as there is in the game. From the first time I saw him as a raw prospect years ago in the Arizona Fall League, Escobar has always made the routine play with ease and made the difficult play look simple as well. He is just a solid, consistent shortstop with enough pop in his bat to be dangerous as well as having the requisite Royals trademark quality-base stealing type speed.

Omar Infante returns at second base, with the good-hitting and solid fielding Christian Colon waiting in the wings. Colon has always hit. There is no reason that can’t continue if he sticks with the parent club all year. Switch-hitting Raul Mondesi is still very young, but he represents the future in the Royals infield.

The Royals have made it a plan for their starting pitcher to keep the club in the game for six innings and turn everything over to a World Class bullpen. To beat the Royals, a team has to jump on the starter and pile on for inning after inning. If that doesn’t happen, the opposition will be treated to a heavy dose of a bullpen that is anchored at the back end by closer Wade Davis. At this point in time he may be the best in the business. Set-up man Luke Hochevar is another pitcher who found great success pitching in late innings for the Royals.

The beautiful house of cards built by the Kansas City front office may come collapsing down if the starting pitching runs in to repetitive hiccups. Ian Kennedy should really help fill the roll vacated by Johnny Cueto. He can be very good. Especially when he pitches inside. If he stays away from hitters and avoids the inside of the plate he can quickly lose his fastball command. The ball sails on him and he gets lit up.

Rotation partners of Kennedy include the returning Edinson Volquez who is now another year older, righty Yordano Ventura, and others who might include Chris Young, Kris Medlen and more. Kyle Zimmer is a prospect with promise who has had shoulder issues. He may be able to help at some point in the season. Lefties Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy add depth for either the rotation or the pen, depending upon need.

But whatever combination of starters makes the rotation, we aren’t talking New York Mets pitching here. The starters just have to carry the baton to the bullpen for success to be realized. They can do that. Without much doubt.

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

Tomorrow: Milwaukee Brewers

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Spring Training Look: The Los Angeles Angels

I always enjoy going to Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe. The fans are usually decked out in Angels colors and the seats are usually filled to the brim. It’s a crowd that appreciates their ball club and cheers throughout the game.

The stadium is not one of the new, state of the art Phoenix area venues. But it has character and tradition. The media area is always buzzing before the game with scouts, team personnel and media. The media lunch is always good, and reasonably priced. I just like going to Tempe Diablo. They make everyone feel very much at home and comfortable.

Media park in a large lot behind the player lot in right field, walk through a tunnel and take an elevator to the top floor. When I arrived yesterday I couldn’t help reminding myself that Joey Gallo hit a home run into that same lot in right field while playing for the Rangers earlier this spring. What a blast that must have been.

I think the Angels are going to have a tough time keeping their heads above water this year in the American League West. Why? The lack of starting pitching could become very worrisome if Jered Weaver can’t rebound from a 7-12 season with a 4.64 ERA. If the aches and pains of C J Wilson and his reduced and limited repertoire don’t improve it could spell real trouble. They need both Weaver and Wilson to perform well and eat some innings..

I am really, really pulling for lefty Tyler Skaggs. If he returns from his elbow surgery and gives the club the type of innings of which he is capable, it could give the Angels a huge boost. If his elbow remains healthy, Skaggs could be a very big part of the teams future. Still young and very athletic, Skaggs was acquired by Jerry Dipoto twice while Dipoto was the team’s general manager. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Skaggs could have the type of arm that could bolster the pitching staff. He could eventually pair with Garrett Richards to form a solid one-two punch of quality starters.

Lefty Hector Santiago started the game I saw. While he isn’t exactly overpowering, Santiago was among the spring leaders in strikeouts going in to the game. He looked sharp at times as he changed speeds and kept the opposing Oakland Athletics off-balance. While he isn’t an ace, he can eat up some innings and provide some quality starts. But I’ve never found him to be particularly consistent.

I like the back end of the Angels bullpen with Huston Street and Joe Smith. Those two in particular stand out to me as guys that can be counted upon to shut the door and preserve the late inning lead. Former Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque will be counted upon to do his part in the pen. The pen seems solid to me.

Mike Trout remains very, very special. i saw him drive balls deep to the outfield with a very measured swing and superb hitting mechanics. He doesn’t seem to have any holes in his approach. He can hit the high or inside fastball and can cover the plate very well for the outside slider. A true professional hitter, I think Trout will be more dangerous this year than ever-and that’s saying something. In Bryce Harper and Mike Trout we are seeing two young players that can probably rival any two mega stars of the past. And both have their best years ahead.

Albert Pujols is still not playing defense at first base. Being used strictly as a designated hitter, Pujols will soon return to the field and once again earn his reputation as a fine defensive first baseman. I do think the bat speed has slowed, but he still gets plenty of barrel on the ball. I look for home runs, doubles and RBIs but a continued bit of decline in the overall batting average. Pujols can still change a game with one swing of the bat. And he’s on a mission to prove that he is still a very viable and dangerous hitter.

One of my favorite American League hitters is Kole Calhoun. Last season he was one of my pre-season guys that I liked. Calhoun struck out 164 times last year. Way too many. He hit .256 with 26 home runs. I didn’t know he had that much power. He’s only 5-foot-10, but the left-handed hitter has some real pop in his bat and good upper-body strength. I like Calhoun to reduce his strikeouts and make more contact. So, in essence, Calhoun , Trout and Pujols could form a big three to knock in some runs.

C J Cron may feel a bit of heat from J-Man Choi at first base, but I don’t think Choi will be a major threat to Cron’s playing time. Choi has struck out a bunch here in Spring Training and may have some initial difficulty making contact against quality big league hitters. From South Korea, the swith-hitting, 6-foot-1, 230 pound first baseman may not make the final 25-man roster. If he doesn’t he will be a phone call away. It may be best for him to make his adjustments with less pressure and having an opportunity to play every day. But Choi could bring a nice organizational bat the the club.

left-handed hitting Daniel Nava is playing and hitting well and is in the mix to start in left-field. A switch-hitter, Nava has a chance to prove he belongs in the starting lineup of a big league club. He really never got the sustained opportunity he needs to stay sharp when playing for the Red Sox. He has his timing down and is showing that his versatile bat could really help.

There are three catchers on the 400-man roster. They include Carlos Perez, Geovanny Soto and big, 6-foot-4, 235 prospect Jett Bandy. I saw Perez start the game I scouted. He can be a better than meh hitter and will likely get lots of at-bats.

The Angels are not among the highest rated regarding their farm system. Depth, especially starting pitching depth could be an issue. However, with the booming bat of Mike Trout and the power of Pujols, Calhoun and Cron, the Angels should be in most games offensively. They may have to score lots of runs to keep up with the opposition.

Defensively, how can a team get much better than Andrelton Simmons at shortstop? The Angels gave up highly touted lefty pitching prospect Sean Newcomb in the deal with Braves to obtain Simmons, but man, can he play. I saw him make several difficult plays seem ordinary with lighting fast hands and feet, great range and a super arm. He will be a tremendous asset to the Angels pitchers. He and his second base partner, probably Johnny Giavotella will form an outstanding middle-infield combination.

Tomorrow: Kansas City Royals

Thank you for following my on twitter @BerniePleskoff

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Spring Training Roster Construction-Arizona Diamondbacks

I know I have commented earlier on the Arizona Diamondbacks in my daily Spring Training reports. I just wanted to share some additional comments. I think some things have changed as the spring has progressed and it gets closer to determining the 25-man roster.

I think the Dbacks are intrigued with the potential Rickie Weeks, Jr. provides. No longer a second baseman, in case you’ve missed it, Weeks Jr. is playing left field in Dbacks camp. And he’s playing well. He now prefers to be called Weeks, Jr. And that is the name on his uniform.

Weeks, Jr. has always had a very strong upper body and strong forearms. His strength is less obvious watching from the stands or on television. But every time I stand next to him I marvel at his well defined upper body. That strength could pay huge dividends in National League West parks like Chase Field and Coors Field.

In the past, Weeks, Jr. has had issues with his wrists. I think he is healthy and raring to prove to the baseball world that he still has value.

The Dbacks have very viable outfield candidates in David Peralta, A J Pollock, Yasmany Tomas, Socrates Brito and Peter O’Brien. Where does Weeks, Jr. fit? I keep trying to see a viable path to the 25-man roster for him. In this scenario, I think O’Brien gets additional Minor League time and is optioned. So if Weeks, Jr. sticks, the outfield consists of Weeks, Jr., Peralta, Pollock, Tomas and Brito. That’s five. (5)

The infield is another place that is loaded with candidates. Of course Paul Goldschmidt is a fixture at first base. Then the club has Nick Ahmed, Jake Lamb, Chris Owings and Jean Segura to consider. However, Phil Gosselin, who came in a trade with Atlanta is opening plenty of eyes with very good contact hitting and some pop in his live bat. Does he get a roster spot? And what about highly rated prospect Brandon Drury? Can Drury make the team as a platoon partner at third base with the left-handed hitting Lamb? Or does Gosselin take that role in addition to playing some second base? I think Drury becomes the odd man out and gets permanent playing time in the Minor Leagues. So by process of elimination consider Ahmed, Lamb, Owings, Segura, Goldschmidt and Gosselin as the infield that is six deep. (6)

In my scenario, I have 11 players between the outfield and infield.

I’m assuming the club will keep two catchers. (2). The 40-man roster includes starting catcher Wellington Castillo and then Tuffy Gosewish, Chris Hermann, and prospect Oscar Hernandez. I am assuming Hernandez gets a full year of seasoning after his Rule 5 year in which he was hurt and couldn’t get playing time. Then, the last catching position should go to Gosewish or Hermann. But not both if the team wants a 12 man pitching staff.

My total roster is now 13. That leaves 12 pitchers, including a bullpen of seven. Does it work? I think so. At least at the start of the season. It would leave quality players like O’Brien and Drury off the roster initially. Each would benefit from additional seasoning. If they are valued by the front office, eventually, a spot will have to be found for both-either by trade of another player or injury.

The catcher that is the odd man out would remain in the organization as the top Minor League catcher waiting for poor performance or injury.

The Diamondbacks also have outfielder Gabriel Guerrero waiting in the wings. He will be another in the line of prospects that can make an impact along with O’Brien and Drury-each already on the 40-man roster.

Tomorrow: First look at Los Angeles Angels

Thank you for following me @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

My Spring Training Look at the Los Angeles Dodgers

Prior to the start of Spring Training, Major League Baseball sponsors a media day when the managers of each club meet with the media. This year such a session was held in both Florida and Arizona. Commissioner Manfred met with the press at each session.

At the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, it appeared to me the most popular manager was new Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts. There was a big crowd around his table and he graciously answered every question.

For some, the hiring of Roberts to manage the Dodgers was a surprise. That may be true, but he has the temperament, the communications skills and the baseball background to help the Dodgers turn the next page. The challenge now is to turn the Dodgers beyond a contenting team into a World Series Champion. That’s a great deal to ask. However, the financial and physical resources are in place for the team to succeed. But that’s what everyone has said for the past few years. Don Mattingly has moved on to manage the Marlins, putting his Los Angeles Dodgers experience in the rear view mirror. Now, it’s Roberts’ team.

My first look of the team came last week when they played their Camelback Ranch complex partner Chicago White Sox before a sellout crowd in Glendale.

Clayton Kershaw started the game. He wasn’t his sharpest, but he showed why he is so exceptional on the mound. He was able to throw his repertoire of breaking balls to compliment his outstanding fastball, fooling hitter after hitter in the process. While there were some hiccups along the way, Kershaw can simply dominate a game. Especially one that matters-not those that are played in the spring. It will continue to be difficult to string hits and walks together to score against him. And that’s the key. Unless a ball leaves the park for a home run, it will take multiple mistakes on his part or good luck for a series of hitters to sustain enough of a rally to put runs on the board.

I’ve seen Kershaw get a bit wild at times, but hitters have a tendency to get impatient and swing at bad pitches. He really is a master craftsman worthy of making the Dodgers contenders if he has a solid supporting cast.

The back end of the pitching equation for the Dodgers begins with closer Kenley Jansen. What Kershaw does in the beginning and middle innings of a game, Jansen does at the end. He’s a dominant closer capable of striking out the three hitters he will face in the 9th inning. He struck out 80 last year in 52 1/3 innings. He walked eight.
Yikes! You want to beat Kershaw and Jansen? Better get to Kershaw very early in the game. And regardless of who has pitched that day for Los Angeles, if the Dodgers head to the ninth with a three run lead…fuggedabowdit. Jansen is really, really good.

The Dodgers are very excited about the athletic ability of outfielder Trayce Thompson, who had just begun to hit when the Dodgers got him from the White Sox. I can see him getting lots of outfield playing time. He’s a good defender with a solid throwing arm, good range in the outfield and a bat that is beginning to wake up. There is some pop in the bat that the Dodgers can certainly use this coming season. I like what I’ve seen so far of Thompson.

Scott Van Slyke is one of those guys every team likes to have hanging around. He is versatile enough to play in the outfield and at first base. A big guy at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Van Slyke can come off the bench in the late innings and drill a pitcher’s mistake to the gap. The Dodgers outfield has Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig in addition to Thompson and Van Slyke. So, Van Slyke’s best chance for playing time may well come as he spells Adrian Gonzalez at first base.

Don’t even begin to think that Howie Kendrick can’t hit anymore. He is still the same dangerous gap hitter he has always been. I saw him rip some ropes against the White Sox Chris Sale-no easy task. Kendrick has always been a high average hitter, but he never won the batting title I thought he was sure to secure while he was playing for the Angels in the American League. But, the Dodgers were very wise to bring him back for his second year with their team. He’s the type of hitter that can rake against both right and left-handed pitching. And he can run well enough to stretch a single to a double.
Kendrick’s return makes the Dodgers a much more dangerous team. And the Angels have never been the same since he left. i think it was a huge mistake for the Angels to ever let him leave their club without extending his contract.

The situation with Alex Guererro remains a total puzzle to me. The Dodgers paid handsomely for his services as an international free agent from Cuba. But he has never been given a chance for sustained plate appearances. I really wonder how he would hit if he got more than last year’s 219 at-bats? Is he that much of a clank in the field that he can’t play defense? If that is really the case, he needs to find a new home as a designated hitter in the American League. I’m just sayin. With Kendrick at second, he likely would have to play third. The Guerrero situation, as are a few others with the Dodgers roster is a bit perplexing.

I’m not nuts about the Dodgers starters beyond Kershaw. I think the balance of the NL West changed dramatically when Zack Greinke went to the Diamondbacks. At one time the Dodgers were loaded with solid starting pitching. I feel that has eroded to the point where prospects like Julio Urias and Jose De Leon will be more important than we once may have believed a couple years ago. Can they count on Kenta Maeda, the right-hander from Japan who joined the club this year? How about Hyun-Jin Ryu? Will he hold up after missing a year with injury? Then there is the chronoligically advancing Scott Kazmir. Is there enough left in the tank? Mike Bolsinger? Hello. So the pitching is a great concern to me. And I think it might be giving the Dodgers brass some acid reflux. They have some offense that can score runs, but will the pitching be enough?

Bottom line after watching them this spring–I think new manager Dave Roberts has his hands full. He’ll have to handle the pitching staff well and mix and match seasoned veterans (especially in the outfield with Crawford and Ethier) to move the club to the finish line. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. We’ll see. Maybe my concerns are unfounded.

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

Tomorrow: Arizona Diamondbacks

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Spring Training Tour-Chicago White Sox

There was an incredible environment yesterday in Glendale’s Camelback Ranch. The Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw was facing the White Sox Chris Sale. The game was the third sellout in a row for the complex which is shared by the White Sox and Dodgers.

The festive atmosphere included people wearing every form of White Sox and Dodgers gear known to man. The scent of great food permeated the park and the concession stands were mobbed. Most importantly, the media dining room featured outstanding roast beef tip and all the trimmings. In my book, Camelback Ranch has some of the best media food in either Florida or Arizona-and I’ve tried them all. They even had some type of chocolate moose for dessert.

The controversy regarding Adam LaRoche’s son being in the clubhouse was still a topic of conversation in the press box. I have spoken about this on radio in both the United States and Canada. I spoke about it on the BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD video. But I do have a couple of final thoughts.

First and foremost, I think the entire situation was blown out of proportion. Specific details should never have escaped the clubhouse. To say it is unusual for a child to be in the clubhouse repeatedly is an understatement. Generally, in every instance I know the time for children and family in the clubhouse is very limited. Apparently, that was not the case with the LaRoche situation. Allegedly, the boy was even on the team bus and on the field during drills. I do think there is enough culpability to pass around on this one. It was a bad situation that got out of control and it was difficult to manage.
I do have a feeling some of the newer players to the team may have privately made their feelings known about the constant presence of the young LaRoche. Apparently, management did get complaints from players. I get it.

AS for the White Sox on the field. I saw some things that were interesting. For example, Austin Jackson may well find a home in center field, moving Adam Eaton to left. That would give them two good outfielders with speed to track down anything hit to the left side of the field. But Jackson will have to hit to stick in the everyday lineup. That leaves Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia as the third outfielder in most lineups. Either J B Shuck or Jerry Sands could hold down a spot, depending upon their performances. But Eaton to left is interesting.

Todd Frazier has lengthened the lineup and has given Jose Abreu some real protection in the middle of the order. Both should hit their share of home runs in hitter-friendly Cellular One. Frazier may not set the world on fire with his batting average, but he will be dangerous every time he comes to the plate. We have to remember that he’s coming from the National League and there may be some adjustments to make to new pitchers. But his old park and new one are similar in their friendliness to right-handed hitters. He should be a real force on the south side of Chicago.

The catching situation interests me. Dioner Navvaro can hit. But Alex Avila may be better defensively. And with that solid left-handed dominant pitching staff, Avila may well be the prominent starting catcher. That said, Navvaro will make his presence known. Again, especially in that ball park. I look for both to get lots of at-bats to keep them fresh for the long season.
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The White Sox have only 37 men on their roster as I write this. There is plenty of room to add three solid pieces before the end of camp. I look for them to be very busy evaluating waiver wires and looking at players in their own organization or on Minor League contracts that they may be able to promote. Jerry Sands seems like a perfect candidate to make the final 25-man team.

Tyler Saladino is a very slick-fielding shortstop. But I saw a few too many one-handed stabs for my tastes. He has excellent range and a solid arm, but he looks a bit unconventional in his approach to most ground balls. I think he will split some time with Carlos Sanchez or even Leury Garcia during the season. And ultimately, Tim Anderson will take over the position for the next decade or so. Saladino, Sanchez and Garcia buy some time until Anderson is ready. I don’t know though if they can keep both Sanchez and Garcia in the final mix of the 25-man roster.

Brett Lawrie really does stabilize the second base situation. He gives the team a guy in the middle-infield with a respectable bat over a long season. If he stays healthy and gets off to a good start he can help the White Sox improve.

Jose Abreu is a professional hitter. He is patient at the plate, doesn’t get himself out with wild, aggressive swings and takes pitches where they are thrown. It really is rare to see a big, strong power hitter take a pitch to the opposite field as Abreu is able to do. His bat control and quick hands through the ball make him almost immune to lengthy slumps. I think he’s a real offensive threat.

Overall, I think the White Sox look fresh and capable to me. I really do like their top of the rotation trio of Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon. Then, I think manager Robin Ventura may get some heartburn with Mat Latos and John Danks. However, Dioner Navvaro thinks he has spotted Danks tipping his pitches. Since that revelation, Danks has pitched better. And that’s what a veteran catcher can bring to a new organization. Fresh eyes and a new voice for the pitching staff.

Tomorrow: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thank you for following me @BerniePleskoff

That’s it. I’m done. For now.

 

Spring Training-My Look At The Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics are an interesting mix of veteran players and some that are younger and less experienced. While it may be a nice mix, I think they’ll struggle to score runs and to keep from yielding runs.

Against the Indians, the A’s sent quite a few of their regular lineup to Goodyear.
Jesse Hahn started the game. Frankly, he looked like he was “pushing” the ball. He actually looked like he was hurt. On some pitches his release point was solid and his extension good. On others, he looked like he didn’t even want to throw the ball. I haven’t seen enough of him to know if the inconsistent mechanics are just who he is. But failing to repeat a clean delivery was costly to him. His shoulder flew open and he got the ball up in the zone more often than not.

Years ago, as I was preparing to be a scout I was always taught how to spot the potential of shoulder, elbow or forearm issues. When Hahn kept flying open and then dropped his shoulder when he pitched, along with changing his arm angle, it looked to me he was looking for comfort-a spot away from pain. I hope I’m wrong. Or, perhaps the discomfort is a harbinger of later issues with his core or rib area. Or maybe that’s just how he pitches. But if I’m writing a scouting report, I have to mention exactly what I saw.

Believe me when I tell you that Billy Burns can flat out fly. He gives 100% effort on every ball he hits. The key to his success will be to keep the ball on the ground and take off running. He can get home to first at the magic 4.0 seconds or under. He also hits some nice, clean line drives that will yield his share of leg doubles. He really is perfect for the top of the Athletic batting order. And he really makes pitchers work. He has the ability to foul off pitch after pitch and lengthen his at-bats. Impressive.

I know that Stephen Vogt will do most of the A’s catching. He was hurt in the second half last year and his numbers declined markedly. However, in the first half he was a monster at the plate, showing power and an ability to drive in runs. But the second catcher on the club, Josh Phegley isn’t too shabby with the bat either. I think the team will give Vogt some time at first base or as a designated hitter to save his body. Enter Phegley. With the playing time I think he’ll get, I feel he can hit double digit home runs. That would be really big for a back-up catcher.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Yonder Alonso, even going back to his younger days with the Reds. Alonso should hit for a very decent average, but he won’t bring much power to the plate. His hitting style reminds me a great deal of the Rays James Loney, when Loney was a bit younger. Alonso may have some opportunities to drive in runs, but he’ll do it with gap doubles as opposed to the three run homer. And that’s fine.

To me, Sam Fuld doesn’t get enough love for the steady and “all out” player he is. A good defender, Fuld can play all three outfield positions with speed, a good read on the ball and a strong enough arm. What I like about him is the speed he can bring if he hits behind Billy Burns, as he did in the game I saw yesterday. Burns and Fuld provided a difficult duo of speed and contact hitting at the top of the A’s order. But the A’s have lots of outfielders including names like Khris Davis, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick that will find playing time. Andrew Lambo and Jake Smolinski are on the 40-man roster as well.

Reddick, Vogt and Davis could provide some middle of the order power if Burns, Crisp and Fuld get on base the speed/power equation will be fine. But there are still those “ifs”.

I think we’re going to see another nice year from third baseman Danny Valencia. Nobody talks about him, but he very quietly hit .284 in his 47 Oakland games.

So while I don’t think Oakland’s lineup is dangerous from an overwhelming power standpoint, they have guys with adequate power, guys with speed and guys that make contact. The issues I see rest pretty much with the pitching staff. I’ll discuss that at more length when I do my team previews at the end of spring.

Thank you for reading my daily Spring Training blogs.

Tomorrow: The White Sox,

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.