Tag:Josh Willingham
Posted on: July 28, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Braves looking for bat, talk Ludwick with SD

By Scott Miller

Looking for an outfield bat, the Braves are engaging the Padres in trade discussions regarding Ryan Ludwick, multiple sources have told CBSSports.com.

Ludwick is not the only outfielder with whom the Braves are exploring a trade, but they are described as having significant interest in the 33-year-old. The Braves also have talked about Oakland's Josh Willingham, the White Sox's Carlos Quentin, Houston's Hunter Pence and Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton.

The difference is that Ludwick and Willingham will cost less than Pence, Quentin and Upton.

Ludwick was held out of San Diego's lineup Thursday afternoon against Arizona, though manager Bud Black brushed off any suggestion that it was because a trade was imminent. The Padres acquired Ludwick from St. Louis at last year's trade deadline during a surprising season in which they won 90 games.

However, Ludwick was a bitter disappointment down the stretch in 2010 (.211, six homers, 26 RBIs in 239 plate appearances). While he's been better in 2011 (.238, 11, 62 in 412 plate appearances), he clearly is not in San Diego's future plans. A free agent this winter, it is believed that Ludwick will seek something in the neighborhood of a three-year deal. With his game not translating well in Petco Park, the Padres are not interested.

Willingham is hitting .240 with 13 homers and 50 RBIs for an Oakland team that long ago fell out of the race this summer.

There are two problems with the White Sox's Quentin, whom the Braves really like and have serious interest in:

One, he's more expensive than Ludwick or Willingham, according to sources. And, two, the Tigers apparently refuse to allow the White Sox to become full-blown sellers. Detroit lost again on Thursday, this time to the Angels, allowing idle Chicago to pull to within three games of the AL Central lead despite a 51-52 record. The White Sox are only two games behind Detroit in the loss column.

As for Pence, his market has exploded since San Francisco traded for Carlos Beltran. My colleague Danny Knobler writes that the Braves, Phillies and several other clubs checked in with the Astros on Thursday.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 28, 2011 4:49 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2011 5:23 pm
 

5 under-the-radar trade targets to watch

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Sure, Carlos Beltran has been traded and there are still waves about Ubaldo Jimenez and other big names, but often it's the role players that are important in a pennant race. Here's guys that won't exactly stop the press, but could make a new team very happy they made a deal:

Josh Willingham1. Josh Willingham, Athletics: While not quite as sexy an acquisition as Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence, B.J. Upton or even Ryan Ludwick, Willingham is certainly in demand.

Willingham is currently hitting .240/.327/.428 -- turning in his lowest OPS since becoming a regular big-leaguer. Playing in pitcher-friendly Oakland certainly doesn't help, but he does have 13 home runs in 324 plate appearances and a career .363 on-base percentage. Willingham has 116 career homers and could supply some pop to a team that needs a right-handed bat, and there are plenty of those. Both the Braves and Red Sox are in need of a right-handed bat in the outfield.

Willingham is a free agent after the season and currently projects as a Type A free agent, so it's possible the A's keep him if nobody meets their asking price.

Jamey Carroll2. Jamey Carroll, Dodgers: Carroll was a guy that was getting interest from Milwaukee before Rickie Weeks suffered a severely sprained ankle on Wednesday, and now he makes even more sense.

Not a bopper by any stretch of the imagination (he has just 12 career homers in 3,273 career plate appearances -- that's one homer every 272.75 plate appearances, and none since 2009), but he's a solid, steady bat hitting .291/.362/.356, a line that's pretty consistent with his .277/.356/.349 career slash line.

The 37-year-old can play around the infield and would step in at second for the Brewers -- and even be part of a mini-youth movement in Milwaukee where he'd take over the spot of 40-year-old Craig Counsell

The Indians are also interested in Carroll, who played in Cleveland in 2008 and 2009. There he would be used to back up rookies Jason Kipnis at second and Lonnie Chisenall at third base.

Coco Crisp3. Coco Crisp, Athletics: Crisp isn't having his best season, but the veteran center fielder could still help plenty of teams looking to shore up an outfield rotation or add a fourth outfielder.

Hitting .266/.317/.384 for Oakland this season, the 31-year-old has seen his stats drop from last season, and his .317 on-base percentage is his lowest since 2006. He does have 27 stolen bases, just five from his career-best.

CBSSports.com colleague Scott Miller made an interesting observation about Crisp, saying he's similar to Dave Roberts in 2004. Red Sox fans don't have to be reminded about Roberts' impact on Boston's title chase. 

The Indians and Reds have shown interest in Crisp, who could also help out the Pirates.

Koji Uehara4. Koji Uehara, Orioles: He's not exactly a household name, but the 36-year-old Japanese right-hander has been one of the game’s best relievers the last couple of years. 

Uehara has a 1.80 ERA this season in 45 innings, striking out 59 and walking eight. His WHIP is down to 0.689, but he has given up six homer so far this season, but that's about the only chink in his armor. In his career he's struck out 6.48 hitters for every walk.

Last season he closed some for the Orioles and converted 13 of 15 chances, so he could even fill that role if needed.

The Rangers, Pirates, Tigers and Twins have shown interest in him. He would upgrade any bullpen he joins.

Clint Barmes5. Clint Barmes, Astros: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And in the NL Central, Clint Barmes is a legitimate shortstop.

The Astros traded for the player better known as the guy before Troy Tulowitzki in Colorado or the guy who fell down the stairs carrying deer meat, but he's had a decent season in Houston. He's hitting .254/.320/.402 with seven homers for the Astros. Better yet, he's a good defensive shortstop -- and Ozzie Smith compared to the likes of Yuniesky Betancourt, Edgar Renteria and Ryan Theriot.

CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler wrote the Brewers are interested in Barmes. The Brewers added Felipe Lopez on Thursday, but Lopez is not a legitimate shortstop (of course, neither is Betancourt) and will report to Triple-A.

Another team to watch may be the Diamondbacks, who lost Stephen Drew to a broken ankle. 

Barmes is a free agent after the season.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:24 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 5:34 pm
 

Indians on hunt for outfielders, pitching

LudwickBy Evan Brunell

Both Jim Bowden of ESPN and Jon Heyman of SI.com report that the Indians are chasing either Ryan Ludwick or Josh Willingham to add to the club's offense.

While two separate reports give some credence to the rumor, don't forget that both people could be drawing from the same source. Regardless, it's no surprise to see Cleveland nosing about for a right-handed outfield bat, given the struggles of Grady Sizemore to stay on the field and Shin-Soo Choo's broken thumb keeping him out until late August. Add in DH Travis Hafner's brittle body, and despite ranking 10th in baseball in runs scored, you can see how offense is a question mark for the Indians.

Ludwick has seen his offense depressed since being traded to the Padres midway through the 2010 season but has drawn trade interest from quite a few teams and could be a nice complementary piece. Willingham has had his own offensive dropoff since joining Oakland before the season but has been hot in July after an injury and slump dragged down his numbers in June. He's a safer bet than Ludwick to produce, but he also costs more and would come with a higher price tag. Carlos Beltran has also come up as a possible target, although it's unlikely Beltran would waive his no-trade clause to go to Cleveland -- plus the Indians wouldn't want to surrender a top prospect.

More important to Cleveland is shoring up the pitching as CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports. One name to note here is Aaron Harang, as Heyman reported Cleveland's interest on Tuesday. The right-hander is having a bounceback season with the Padres, but pitching in Petco Park is a big reason why. His 3.19 ERA will command a higher price than he's truly worth, while another of Cleveland's targets, Hiroki Kuroda, may not pan out because he has a no-trade clause and wants to stay on the West Coast. As a result, the Dodgers' trade market for Kuroda is quite thin.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, check out Danny Knobler's trade deadline news and rumors.



Posted on: July 18, 2011 2:05 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 2:14 pm
 

Trade Deadline Primer: AL West

By Eye on Baseball Team

Baseball's trade deadline is just 13 days away. The rumor mill is certainly spinning, but we've only really seen one big move -- the Brewers acquiring Francisco Rodriguez. In the upcoming days we'll take a glance around baseball and sort out what we can expect to see from each major-league team. First up, the AL West, a division that saw several deadline deals last season, including an intradivisional Cliff Lee deal (though that happened in early July). It doesn't appear the landscape is ripe for another blockbuster like that, but let's dive in.

Texas Rangers
Status: Buyers
Upgrade needed: Pitching, both starting and relief.
Possible matches: Padres, Marlins, Nationals, A's, Mariners
Notes: If the Rangers continue to win at this pace and create big separation in the AL West -- they're currently up four games and have won 11 in a row -- they won't feel the need to make a big splash. They have reportedly talked to the Marlins about pitching, with Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Leo Nunez as possibilities (Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports). Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports, however, that the Marlins aren't going to move Nolasco or Sanchez. Evan Grant of Rangers Blog reports the Rangers are interested in Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Andrew Bailey and Brandon League -- though Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle says the A's would have to be overwhelmed to move Bailey, since he's under team control until 2014. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports also has the Rangers in on Bell, Adams, Bailey and throws in Tyler Clippard of the Nationals. Buster Olney of ESPN says the Rangers are the "leaders" in the Bell/Adams sweepstakes. I'd expect the Rangers to do whatever it takes, within reason, to get to the World Series again.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Status: Frugal buyers
Upgrade needed: Could use more pitching and another bat.
Possible matches: They'd have to shed payroll first, so none at this point.
Notes: Thanks to several high-priced acquisitions in recent memory (Vernon Wells, c'mon down!) the word is the Angels don't want to increase the payroll -- even though general manager Tony Reagins denies that assertation, there's evidence to suggest it. So, while they'd probably like to upgrade several areas -- coincidentally, an upgrade over Wells would be nice -- there won't be much flexibility. Expect the Angels to make minor trades at the absolute maximum. UPDATE: Rosenthal reports Aramis Ramirez is on the Angels' wish list, but that Ramirez still has no intention of waving his no-trade clause for anyone -- at least until after July 31. This is interesting on several levels. Going after Ramirez would completely contradict the notion that the Angels aren't adding payroll. Not only is Ramirez making a pretty penny this season, but a trade would cause a $16 million option for next season to vest. Also, Ramirez's insistence on not leaving starts to make you wonder if he knows the Cubs will pick up his option after the season.

Seattle Mariners
Status: In limbo, but probably sellers.
Players available: Doug Fister, Jason Vargas, Erik Bedard, Brandon League.
Notes: We can't really be sure how things stand just yet. The Mariners were all set to be buyers and were reportedly interested in upgrading the offense, for example. But they've now lost nine in a row and -- teamed with the Rangers' winning streak -- that has buried them. I can't see a reason to move Felix Hernandez, and the Mariners won't, but some are sure to speculate about him. Just take those "rumors" with a grain of salt. All-Star reliever Brandon League could fetch a decent return and, when the Mariners decide to start selling, Bedard seems like a name that could be involved in any trade talks. Knobler also reports that Vargas and Fister are available -- and points out Hernandez and Michael Pineda are not.

Oakland Athletics
Status: Sellers
Players available: Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Conor Jackson and Michael Wuertz. Probably several more, too.
Possible matches: Pretty much any buyer.
Notes: You have to figure at least three of the above players are shipped somewhere. Things will probably go down to the wire, as none are huge difference makers and will probably be last resorts on July 31. Willingham could go sooner, as he's being dangled, it's just that not many teams are overly excited about him. The Pirates are said to be in on him, but could be setting their sights higher on Hunter Pence.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: June 24, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Pepper: Oswalt hints he may be done

By C. Trent Rosecrans

BASEBALL TODAY: Just why did Jim Riggleman ditch his job? CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler joins Lauren Shehadi to discuss Riggleman, Ubaldo Jimenez and more. Check it out.

OSWALT END?: It's not just that Roy Oswalt is hurt -- leaving Thursday's start with the Cardinals after just two innings -- but that he may have pitched his last game ever.

Oswalt will not only likely miss his next start, he could also be done. He's already hinted at retirement and with a back injury, it may not be worth it for Oswalt to come back.

After Thursday's outing, Oswalt sounded anything but confident in his return. David Hale of the News Journal has a full transcript of Oswalt's postgame comments, and they don't sound like the comments of someone who is confident it'll be an easy road back.

Heres' the question and answer that says it all to me:

Q: Do you allow yourself to think about your career at this point?

A: I've had a pretty good one.

That sounds like someone who is content with walking away if he gets bad news soon.

We may know more Monday after his scheduled MRI.

HOT SEAT: Edwin Rodriguez didn't last a full calendar year as the Marlins manager and the Cubs' Mike Quade could follow that lead. Quade's on the hot seat (even if general manager Jim Hendry's seat should be hotter). [Chicago Tribune]

LI'L' GOOSE: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle compared closer Joel Hanrahan to Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, and after stifling a laugh, John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times takes a look at the comparison and sees some parallels.

SCOUTING DARVISH: Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was scheduled to see Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish's start on Friday. Darvish may be the top free-agent pitcher this season if he comes to the United States, as expected. The Braves and Twins reportedly had scouts at his last start, when he picked up just his second loss of the season. It was one of his worst starts of the season and he still gave up just one earned run, allowing nine hits and striking out 10 in eight innings. [YakyuBaka.com]

A'S OPEN TO DEAL: The sharks are circling in Oakland, as scouts have been checking out outfielder Josh Willingham, infielder Mark Ellis and left-handed relievers Craig Breslow and Brian Fuentes. [San Francisco Chronicle]

ANOTHER LOOK: Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter, he of the tomahawk motion, looks forward to facing teams another time so he can prove he's more than a gimmick pitcher. We'll see. [MLB.com]

NICE RIDE: The Toledo Mud Hens players are going to miss Brandon Inge, who was activated by the Tigers on Thursday. During his rehab trip with Detroit's Triple-A team, Inge sprung for a limo for several players to take them from Louisville, Ky., to Columbus, Ohio, skipping the planned bus ride. [Detroit News]

DEJA VU: A St. Louis ace 1-7 through June? (Well, now 2-7 after Thursday night's 2-7) It's been done before. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Dispatch  compares Chris Carpenter's 1-7 start to that of John Tudor's 26 years ago. 

CABRERA'S CASE POSTPONED: The hearing for Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera's DUI arrest has been postponed again and rescheduled for July 12. That's the day of the All-Star Game. Cabrera, however, isn't required to be present for this hearing, though, so he can still go to the All-Star Game. [Detroit News]

NO DECISION: Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said he'd prefer not to negotiate during the season (and that doesn't make Jim Riggleman happy), but said it's not a rule. Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm has said he'd like to sign an extension to stay in Pittsburgh. [MLB.com]

GARDNER'S D: A cool story here from ESPNNewYork.com's Mark Simon looking at the defense of Brett Gardner by talking to scouts, players and stats folks. 

BUCCO FEVER: If you haven't noticed, the Pirates (yes, the team in Pittsburgh) are in a pennant race. Sure, it's not even July yet, but we're talking the Pirates. The folks in Pittsburgh are beginning to take notice. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

LAWRIE DELAYED: Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie was all but set to be called up at the beginning of the month, but before he could get the call, he was hit by a pitch and broke his left hand. Now he's having trouble gripping the bat and may not be ready until August. [CBCSports.ca]

FIGGINS DILEMMA: If you're following the Mariners, there's plenty of positives around the team -- including a record just a game under .500. But there's one big concern, Chone Figgins. The question for the Mariners is what to do with Figgins, who has two years and $17 million left on his contract. [Seattle Times]

BROXTON'S RETURN: Even when Jonathan Broxton comes off the disabled list, he won't automatically return to closing for the Dodgers, manager Don Mattingly said. [Los Angeles Times]

RETURN OF THE SPITTER: Here's an interesting theory (that I'm pretty sure I don't buy, but still interesting to think about) from Mat Kovach of the Hardball Times -- is the rise of pitching because of the return of the spitball?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: May 15, 2011 11:47 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Big knock for Uggla



By Matt Snyder


Dan Uggla, Braves. In switching teams for the first time of his major-league career, it's been a rough start to the 2011 season for Uggla. He entered Sunday's game with a .196 batting average and .629 OPS (his career low in OPS is .805, back in 2007). Maybe his go-ahead, eighth-inning home run off Roy Halladay is what he needs to get hot. He went 2-3 to climb above the Mendoza line (.205) and also drew a walk. So he got on base three of four trips against one of the game's elite pitchers and played the part of hero with a late home run. That's a pretty solid day.

Justin Turner, Mets. The Mets were getting no-hit by Aneury Rodriguez through four innings, but by the end of the sixth, Turner had five RBI as the Mets put up seven runs in two frames -- and it was enough for the victory. Turner connected on a two-run double to tie the game at two in the fifth inning and then concluded the Mets' scoring with a three-run blast in the sixth. In those two at-bats, Turner knocked in more runs than he had in his first 36 at-bats in 2011.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles. Hardy -- from the nine-hole, mind you -- had the big blow for the Orioles in a 9-3 win over first-place Tampa Bay Sunday. He hit a grand slam in the sixth inning that made a 4-2 game into a laugher (8-2, math majors) instantly. On the day, Hardy was 2-5, which means he's hitting .400 (10-25) with two home runs and seven RBI since coming off the disabled list earlier this month. If Mark Reynolds would come around, the Orioles would actually have a pretty potent top-to-bottom batting order.




Javier Vazquez, Marlins. Vazquez is now 2-4 with a 7.55 ERA, but that doesn't even come close to describing how much of a burden he's been on the Marlins. That's because he's putting his team into a huge hole right out of the gate. Sunday, he coughed up six runs on six hits in the first inning alone -- including a two-RBI double by opposing pitcher Jason Marquis. Now, Marquis is one of the best hitting pitchers around, but he's still a pitcher. The Marlins would only score four runs all game, so it was essentially over after one inning. It shouldn't be surprising, as Vazquez has a 15.75 ERA in the first inning this season. That's an awful lot of pressure to put on your teammates to begin a game. Fish Tank blog notes that Vazquez could be in trouble of losing his spot in the rotation, but he's fortunate in that there aren't many good options waiting in the minors. He's just gotta get better, especially with the Marlins in what looks like a long-term three-team race in the strong NL East.

Brian Duensing, Twins. His grip on a job in the starting rotation may be slipping away. Duensing lasted just three innings Sunday against the Blue Jays, giving up eight hits and seven earned runs. Kevin Slowey is the obvious next in line, and he followed Duensing with six innings to finish the game. Fortunately for Duensing, Slowey allowed four earned runs in his six innings, but that's still better than Duensing -- and you've got to give Slowey a bit of a free pass with three of those runs coming on Jose Bautista homers. The best hitter on the planet at this point only accounted for one of the seven runs Duensing allowed.

Josh Willingham, A's. There's nothing really to say, other than to let the stat-line speak for itself. Willingham was 0-5 with four strikeouts and left seven men on base. Ouch.

BONUS DOWN: Mother Nature. Seriously, we the baseball fans in this great nation collectively cry "uncle." Prior to Sunday, there had already been more postponements this season than there were all of 2010, and now we can add three more to the list, as the Cubs-Giants, Mariners-Indians and Tigers-Royals games were postponed. This is a joke, and an unfunny one at that.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Five teams to improve, five to decline in 2011

By Matt Snyder

Finally, spring training is concluding. Now we have a day or two before your favorite team begins play. In the meantime, I'm here to bring you the top five teams to decline and the top five to improve upon their 2010 performances. In return, you accuse me of bias and call me names. It's fun for everyone, really. One thing to keep in mind is that improving or declining by more than 10 games is pretty drastic. On some of these, I'm looking at something like a seven-game swing.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO IMPROVE

1. Boston Red Sox. Well, let's see ... Last season Kevin Youkilis only played 102 games, Dustin Pedroia saw action in 75 and Jacoby Ellsbury just 18. Josh Beckett was either injured or ineffective all season. Meanwhile the Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a team that won 89 games, despite all those injury woes -- and some underachieving from people like John Lackey. Easiest call on the board here, and even Yankees fans would have to concede this team is loaded.

2. Oakland A's. The pitching staff is stellar, even including the bullpen. The starting rotation is already really good and only getting better. The A's won 81 with one of the worst offenses in baseball last season. A full season of Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki bouncing back and the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham don't exactly sound like adding Gonzalez and Crawford, but small improvements will do wonders for the pitching staff. Slugger Chris Carter is waiting in the wings, too, and don't be surprised if Billy Beane adds a bat at the deadline.

3. Colorado Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki needs to stay healthy and Dexter Fowler needs to get closer to his ceiling. I'm going out on a limb that both happen, along with steps forward from Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart. Watch Jhoulys Chacin's development in the starting rotation, too. He's got big potential.

4. Milwaukee Brewers. This is contingent upon the big names staying healthy and Zack Greinke getting healthy as soon as possible, because this team is paper-thin. But the top line is very impressive. Plus, the division is not very good at all. The Brewers are going to score runs, get good starting pitching (again, assuming the health thing) and have a good back-end of the bullpen. If they can overcome defense and depth deficiencies, they'll win the Central.

5. Florida Marlins. Call it a bit of a gut call, but I really like the Marlins. The rotation really has great potential with Javier Vazquez returning to a pitcher's park in the NL East (he's apparently too intimidated by being a Yankee) and Ricky Nolasco having the ability to be a true No. 2 if he can ever stay consistent. Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad have -- again, this word -- potential to be solid at the end, with stud Josh Johnson leading the five-some. I love the outfield potential of Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton, so long as all three can stay healthy. Hanley Ramirez is primed to have a big season, too.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO DECLINE

1. San Diego Padres. Removing Gonzalez from the middle of the batting order changes the complexion of everything. And Mat Latos is already hurt, which does nothing to alleviate the concern of the huge workload increase he's experienced over the past two seasons. Most of all, the Padres just seem outmanned by the Giants and Rockies. Winning close to 90 games seems outlandish. Of course, many people said that last year, too.

2. Houston Astros. They overachieved in a big way last season according to run differential (the 'Stros allowed 118 more runs than they scored) and aren't any better. Other than Hunter Pence, the position players are either getting old (Carlos Lee), still unproven (Brett Wallace) or just not that good (Jason Michaels, Bill Hall, Michael Bourn). I'm not a huge fan of the rotation, but it's going to have to carry the team. Good luck with that.

3. Tampa Bay Rays. This is difficult. It's hard to not love the Rays for being so good at sticking with the Yankees and Red Sox in the mighty AL East on that paltry payroll. The loss of Crawford hurts. Carlos Pena wasn't overly productive -- though he was much better than his batting average said -- last season, but his presence helps everyone else see better pitches. That goes away with Dan Johnson at first. The loss of Matt Garza isn't a big deal, so long as Jeremy Hellickson does his thing and James Shields returns to form. The bullpen is worse, though. Look, I'd pick the Rays to win the NL Central if they were in it, but the Yankees aren't any worse and the Red Sox are way better. The Orioles should be better as well. I think the Rays win in the ballpark of 86 games, but that's 10 worse than last year and good for third place.

4. Toronto Blue Jays. They're still building and are moving in the right direction, but winning 85 games again in that division is a very tall order. Any offensive bounce-back from the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind is negated by Jose Bautista's return to this planet.

5. St. Louis Cardinals. If anyone can pull this off, it's Dave Duncan, but losing Adam Wainwright was a death blow. Chris Carpenter is old and injury-prone. Jaime Garcia is due a massive regression. Kyle Lohse was awful last year and Jake Westbrook doesn't have good stuff. Kyle McClellan could very well prove a solid No. 5 starter, but he hasn't exceeded 75 2/3 innings the past three seasons in the bullpen. Can he really double that and remain effective? The outfield defense won't do the staff any favors, either. The Pujols/Holliday/Rasmus combo -- and even Lance Berkman in a best-case scenario -- is very solid, but there's only going to be so much they can do on some nights. I feel like mid-to-high 70s in wins, but Duncan and Tony La Russa find ways to make people wrong often.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 1:10 pm
 

Carter flashes power, but when will he arrive?

By Matt Snyder

Chris Carter is not a small man. He stands at 6-foot-4 and checks in at 245 pounds.

His amount of power isn't small either. The potential big-time slugger went yard twice Monday, including a prodigious shot off the left-field scoreboard. It was the first time this spring we've seen a glimpse of the kind of power he possesses, but there's more where that came from.

In 465 Triple-A at-bats last season, Carter connected for 31 home runs and 29 doubles. Since being drafted out of high school, the 24-year-old has destroyed pitching at every level of the minors, compiling 149 homers in 673 games (which multiplies out to 36 per 162 games).

Minor issues would be Carter's batting average (.258 last season) and strikeouts (138 last season in 125 games), but he's patient enough to erase those concerns. He took 73 walks in 2010, meaning his .365 on-base percentage (worlds more important than average) was vrey respectable.

Basically, it's not a matter of if the A's are going to slot his bat in the middle of the order, but when. And, boy, do they need his pop.

The A's finished 81-81 last season, yet the only teams that hit less home runs were the punchless Astros and Mariners. Only four teams had a lower slugging percentage.

With some seemingly stop-gap options in the house this season, it appears the A's are ready to relegate Carter to the minors one more season. Josh Willingam (left field), David DeJesus (right field) and Hideki Matsui (designated hitter) have been brought in. Willingham and Matsui have some power, but their ceilings aren't near as high as Carter's. Plus, Carter has already paid his dues in the minors and shown what he can do in Triple-A. He did struggle in a late recall last season, but struggling in your first 70 major-league at-bats is hardly anything unique.

The feeling here is Carter should be allowed to start at least four times a week with the big-league club to see how he can handle the majors this time around. Six years in the minors is plenty of time and he could very well be ready. If he is, he could be the centerpiece that bats like Matsui, Willingham and DeJesus support -- as none of those guys are feared enough (at least not anymore in Matsui's case) to change the complexion of the lineup on their own.

Carter will be. And it might just begin in 2011.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com