Tag:Logan Morrison
Posted on: June 13, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: June 13, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Pepper: Morrison wants Superman cape for Stanton



What does a sweep of the Cardinals mean for Milwaukee and the rest of the NL Central? MLB.com's Tom Boorstein joins Scott Braun to talk about the Brewers and to look ahead to some of Monday night's action.

By Evan Brunell

BATMAN AND ROBIN: As the All-Star Break edges closer and closer, Marlins left-fielder Logan Morrison has a pretty good idea of who should be part of the Home Run Derby, which is popular with players and fans.

That would be Mike Stanton, who has admitted that several of his 16 home runs this season went out of the park only because he made contact, not because he hit the ball on the sweet spot. That's some serious power from the youngster, and Morrison wants to see what he can do on the national stage -- plus ride his coattails.

“I told him if he goes, I get to be on the field to be the towel-and-Gatorade boy. I get the on-field mic," Morrison said. "‘So, Mike, tell me, how does it feel to hit 16 home runs and only square up one?’”

Then there was this classic exchange when Stanton was asked if he would participate in the Home Run Derby, a nice peek into the personalities of Morrison and Stanton as transcribed by Matt Porter:

MS: “I don’t know, I’d have to see … once they --”
LM: “Yes. You would, because I’d have to be on the field.”
MS: [Disapproving look]
LM: “Hey man, coattails. Don’t leave 'em long if you don’t like it.”
LM: “We need a cape.”

Reporter, filling in Stanton on a prior conversation: “He wants you to wear a cape.”

MS: “OK, if he buys it. What kind of cape?”
LM: “Like a Superman cape.”
LM: “And I’ll have the Wonder Woman outfit.”
MS: “You gotta wear the short-shorts then.”
LM: “Heck yeah!
LM: “Or Batman, and I’ll be Robin.”
MS: “You kinda look like Robin. An oversize Robin.”
LM: “You know Mike, what we should do is get you an extra jersey, and cut the sleeves off and go like Jose Canseco in batting practice or something. Tear-away sleeves.” 

The Derby these days tends to be an over-inflated reality show that drags on with all manner of distractions, but it's really cool to see two young stars of baseball banter back and forth like this. Plus, the more Logan Morrison, the better.

DRUG RING: Livan Hernandez is linked to drug kingpin Angel Ayala-Vazquez from Puerto Rico, the leader of the top drug trafficking organization. The right-hander is currently being investigated as a "straw buyer," where a person purchases products for another in his own name, which allows proceeds from drug trafficking to be hidden. U.S. attorneys have said charges are likely coming against Hernandez. (Washington Times)

WRIGLEY IS A DUMP
: After Peter Gammons referred to Wrigley Field as "a dump" that requires a $200 million renovation, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen couldn't agree fast enough. "He did? Good for you, Peter," Guillen said with a laugh. "Finally, somebody else out-tagged me. Why do you say that, Peter? You have only been to Wrigley Field for a few days. You're not at Wrigley Field all of the time. That's why Peter is one of the brightest men in baseball." (Chicago Tribune)

MARQUIS WANTS TO STAY
: Starting pitcher Jason Marquis wants to stay in Washington as he sees good things coming with the up-and-coming team. One of the worst pitchers in the game last season, Marquis is now somehow 7-2 with a 3.67 ERA, so he's making a case for the Nats to extend him. (MLB.com)

RIZZO TURNING HEADS
: Anthony Rizzo blasted his first career home run by sending a ball over the right-field fence. How rare is that? The Padres calculated that only 28 percent of all home runs at Petco (which are already a difficult place to hit) have headed to the right-field seats. That's the potential Rizzo has, who also appears to be well-adjusted off the field. (MLB.com)

CHIPPED WOOD
: Kerry Wood appears headed to the disabled list as his blister problems have increased. Wood missed three weeks in 2008 because of a finger blister and could be in line for a similar amount of missed time. (page/CHC">Cubs%29">Chicago Tribune)

LYLES STAYING: Twenty-year-old rookie Jordan Lyles is now a permanent member of the Astros' rotation. When Wandy Rodriguez returns to start Monday, reliever Jeff Fulchino will be optioned with Aneury Rodriguez making room in the rotation by moving to the bullpen. That leaves Lyles in the rotation after making the first three starts of his career. (Houston Chronicle)

8,000 MILES: The Angels are about to embark on a "Four Corners" trip in which they will go from Los Angeles to Seattle, New York, Florida and back to L.A. which will span more than 8,000 miles with 12 games in 14 days. (Orange County Register)

MANAGER ERSTAD: Darin Erstad is the new manager at the University of Nebraska, and he plans to bring his style of game to the team. That means outright hustle, starting with the run to first base. (Orange County Register)

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Posted on: June 9, 2011 5:16 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 5:47 pm
 

Morrison, Marlins angered by Mallee firing

Mallee

By Evan Brunell


Logan Morrison is upset about the firing of hitting coach John Mallee (pictured), saying that the decision came from owner Jeffrey Loria and Loria alone, the Miami Herald reports. Former major-leaguer Eduardo Perez, who has been working as a TV analyst and is the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez, was named hitting coach, but Morrison says some of the other Marlins are also upset that Mallee was fired.

"They felt Mallee had to go," Morrison said. "I don't feel that way. He's there from day one. He got me to the big leagues. I was a 22nd rounder for a reason. I made the big leagues for a reason. And he was in between that time."

Morrison says the players don't need to talk to the front office to convey their disappointment because it should be abundantly clear. He intimated that the front office might not be happy either.

"I don't think it was their choice, either," he said. "Actually, I know it wasn't their choice."

The case against Mallee appears to be that the Marlins had lost seven in a row. Loria has a reputation for sticking his nose into everything and having a knee-jerk attitude, so it's no surprise that he's the engineer of this move. The Marlins were struggling to score runs, ranking 10th in the National League, but they did have an OPS of .708, slightly over the league average. During the seven-game losing streak, the team has hit .175 with runners in scoring position, which president Larry Beinfest said was the biggest issue with the team and hoped the change would help. How Perez is supposed to magically make hitters perform with RISP is unclear.

Many of the young Marlins players had Mallee as their minor-league hitting coach, including Morrison, Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez and Mike Stanton.

"[Mallee's] crushed, for sure," said Morrison, adding that he spoke to Mallee on the phone. "But he wants us to succeed, wants us to do the best we can still. Just because he's gone doesn't mean it's going to change. I'm still going to be talking to him, that's for sure."

Morrison also warned that the team is unlikely to relax now that the move has been made and a new voice is in the fold.

"I don't think when you let somebody go who's been with us since Day 1 you're going to be any more relaxed," he said. "I think you're going to be more [upset] than anything."

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Category: MLB
Posted on: June 8, 2011 11:11 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 12:32 am
 

Marlins fire hitting coach Mallee

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Several Marlins players are unhappy the way the team fired hitting coach John Mallee following Wednesday's 10-inning loss to the Braves.

According to the Palm Beach Post, general manager Mike Hill told players in the clubhouse after the game, but not all players were at their lockers, so some heard from other teammates.

The team announced the move after the game and also announced it had hired ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez to replace Mallee. Perez is the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez, a special assistant for the Marlins.

Mallee, 42, was in his 10th season with the organization and was named hitting coach last July when Edwin Rodriguez took over as manager for Fredi Gonzalez. The team fired Jim Presley the same day it fired Gonzalez.

"I don't think it's right. I don't think it's just," outfielder Logan Morrison told the Palm Beach Post. "He had me prepared more than anybody.

"It's definitely not his fault. We let him down. Everybody has their finger on the panic button. It's hard to relax and play baseball."

Florida went into Wednesday's game hitting .255/.327/.382 with an OPS of .708, slightly above the league average. The Marlins are 10th in the National League with 239 runs scored.

The Marlins have lost seven straight, hitting .175 (11 for 63) with runners ins coring position during the streak, including 1 for 8 on Wednesday. Marlins president Larry Beinfest pointed to that stat as the biggest problem with the team and said he hoped the change would help.

Perez played for six teams, ending his playing career in Seattle in 2006. In his career, he hit .247/.326/.431.

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Posted on: June 3, 2011 8:41 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 9:18 pm
 

Marlins' Morrison: Lost respect for Sabean, Posey

Morrison

By Evan Brunell


Quite the rivalry is brewing between the Marlins and Giants, and Logan Morrison just took it a step further.

The Marlins left fielder felt compelled to speak out about Giants GM Brian Sabean's inflammatory comments in which he said that he wouldn't miss Cousins at all if he never played in the majors again. Cousins, of course, was the player to smash into Buster Posey, breaking Posey's leg and ending his season. Many are divided on whether the play was clean or dirty.

"That's immature," Morrison told MLB.com of Sabean's comments. "That's childish."

Posey Injury

"I hope [Sabean] apologizes, because what he said was wildly inappropriate and wildly unprofessional, and it really shows ignorance on his part," Morrison said. "Not to show compassion for a human being who is going through a hard time ... I guess he wouldn't know anything about. If it were me, and I was on his side, I'd reserve my comments until the death threats have subsided."

Cousins has reportedly received death threats. Although he feels the play was clean, he has attempted to reach out to Posey to apologize for the injury and says the play is still an "open wound" for him. The Giants, for their part, released a statement that said Sabean's comments were spoken out of frustration, and that the GM was reaching out to both Cousins and Marlins president Larry Beinfest.

Morrison came right out and said he had "animosity" toward Sabean and his comments, although he holds no grudges against the Giants. But he also has lost respect for Posey:

If it was me running, I would have put him in the third row of the stands. If he got hurt, I'm sorry. That's part of the game. I'd feel bad if he did get hurt. But I wouldn't have written a two-page letter like Cousins did. I wouldn't have tried to reach out to him like Cousins did, because I know it's part of the game. I wouldn't have felt half as bad as Cousins did. And for Posey not to write back to him or say anything to him, that's just immature and childish. I have no respect for him or respect for Sabean.

The 23-year-old had plenty more to say on the subject, and he doesn't think the rules should be altered for collisions at home plate that place both the runner and catcher in danger:

If he doesn't like the rules, be in a different game. These have been around for a hundred years. This game is this way because it doesn't make the changes that football does or like basketball does. It sticks with the same rules. For him to question the integrity of the game because it happens to him, and it happens to one of his best players, doesn't mean that it should ask for rules changes.

Here's the thing: It's the winning run of the game. Even if he did, and I'm not saying he did have a clear lane, but that lane was about to be shut off by Posey, who was coming back towards him to tag him.

You're watching it in slow motion replay. If I had a clean lane and had to slide, and I was out by sliding, I'm mad at myself for not running him over. It's within my rights to run him over and separate him from the ball.

Morrison added that several Giants players told him and other Marlins players that the play was clean.

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Posted on: May 23, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: May 23, 2011 11:01 am
 

Pepper: Bo Porter hoping to manage

By Evan Brunell

EYE ON THE JOB: Nationals' third-base coach Bo Porter knows what he wants, and that's a manager's job.

Porter has been one of the hottest names in managerial circles the last couple of seasons, so he figures to get the call eventually -- perhaps as early as next season. He's built up good experience so far, coaching for two years in the Marlins' farm system before becoming Fredi Gonzalez's third-base coach in Florida. He moved to the same role in Arizona for 2010, becoming bench coach once A.J. Hinch was fired. Porter interviewed for the Nationals' opening in 2009 (that went to Jim Riggleman) and also threw his hat in the ring last winter for the Mariners and Pirates jobs.

One might wonder why Porter's had a hard time snagging that manager's job if he's so highly regarded. That's because it's not easy for a first-time manager to get his break.

“It’s hard for anybody at any level to get their first job,” said Nationals general manger Mike Rizzo. “You have to have the right situation to be the perfect candidate to get your first job. There’s some luck involved, and you have to have that stick-to-itiveness that transcends any time line.”

Porter, for his part, believes being third-base coach is one of the -- if not the -- most challenging assistant coach positions in all of sports, and it's a spot that helps hopefuls prepare for becoming skipper.

“Jim Riggleman can’t jump into my brain and make a decision when the ball is in motion,” Porter said. “The same thoughts it takes to manage a game, it takes to be a third-base coach.” (New Jersey Star-Ledger)

MADOFF SCHEME: The New Yorker comes out with a fantastic article on the owner of the Mets, Fred Wilpon. It chronicles his rise to becoming the owner of the Mets, as well as detailing the scandal that threatens his grip on the team in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. It's a long article, but worth the read. (New Yorker)

DEEP DRAFT
: Everyone knows the Rays have 11 of the first 75 picks in the draft. But San Diego also has a nice haul, with five of the first 58. That will add a ton of talent from the talented draft into a Padres system already deep in corner infielders. That means you can bet on middle infielders being featured in the draft, along with the crucial center field spot and of course, pitching. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

DRAFTING BEST PLAYER
: The Milwaukee Brewers have two first-round picks and although it would be justified for the Brewers to seek drafting a hitter and pitcher apiece, scouting director Bruce Seid says the club will draft the best available player, period. Milwaukee could stand adding a shortstop to its system. Things get a bit more complicated as the No. 15 pick is due to being unable to sign their first-rounder last year. That means that this year, that pick is unprotected, and the player must sign as Milwaukee would not receive compensation again. That could influence the Brewers' choice toward drafting someone they know will sign. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

@LOMOMARLINS
: Logan Morrison is quickly emerging as the public face of the Marlins, in no small part due to his large Twitter following, cultivated because of his grounded personality and willingness to engage with the fans. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that he's hitting for a 1.044 OPS, either. (Palm Beach Post)

A-BALL Cardinals
: The Cardinals are bringing their low Class-A affiliate to Busch Stadium Thursday for rookies to get a taste of what it's like to play in a major-league stadium. "I think what happens being in the lower minor leagues [is] the big leagues can feel far away," Low-A pitching coach Tim Leveque said. "I think when you play in a ballpark like that, it gives them a taste of what their ultimate goal is. Hopefully it will motivate them and help them realize there is an end to the rainbow." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
: Pablo Sandoval is recovering so nicely from his injury that he could be back in a Giants uniform a week or two ahead of schedule. Manager Bruce Bochy says Sandoval could be back in two weeks. S.F. certainly needs his return, as Mark DeRosa is back on the DL and a tandem of Mike Fontenot at short and Miguel Tejada at third will eventually be exposed. (Comcast SportsNet Bay Area via Twitter)

KEPPINGER CLOSE
:Jeff Keppinger could be back by the end of the week after being out since mid-January due to foot surgery. The second baseman will likely steal away the bulk of playing time that has gone to Bill Hall, who has already started losing his job with Angel Sanchez getting more at-bats. Keppinger won't win the starting job outright, but he'll receive liberal playing time. (MLB.com)

BAILEY EN ROUTE
: The Athletics will get their closer, Andrew Bailey, back as soon as this week, as he will ready to make his second rehab appearance Monday night. The 2009 Rookie of the Year had a strong 2010 despite missing a chunk of time to injury. He has yet to make his 2011 debut. (San Jose Mercury News)

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Posted on: May 12, 2011 2:04 pm
 

Marlins' good offense about to get better

By Matt Snyder

The Florida Marlins have had one of the better offenses in the National League to this point in 2011, but things are going to start getting better quite soon.

The Marlins have scored 161 runs, entering Thursday's action, which is good for third in the NL. Gaby Sanchez has been tearing the cover off the ball, Greg Dobbs is answering the third-base question and Emilio Bonifacio is swinging the bat well. Chris Coghlan has been good, but he's capable of a bit more. Armed with this offense, excellent bullpen pitching and a Josh Johnson-led starting rotation, the Marlins are only three games behind the Phillies and the NL East and two ahead of the Braves -- two teams many expected to make the postseason with ease.

A cursory glance at the Marlins' stat-sheet, however, shows you that the best is yet to come from the bats. Hanley Ramirez has never had such an awful start. Logan Morrison has been sidelined since April 19 and Mike Stanton isn't hitting near his potential.

Change is on the way, as Morrison will be activated to join the Marlins Friday in Washington. (Fish Tank) Through 15 games, the 23-year-old outfielder merely provided a glimpse into his immense potential. He was hitting .327 with four home runs, 11 RBI, eight runs and a 1.061 OPS before the injury foot injury. His presence in the lineup -- likely sixth -- will only help Stanton see better pitches as he struggles to get his numbers where they're capable of being.

Ramirez, for his part, is showing signs of coming around. In his past three games -- against the Phillies' vaunted pitching staff -- he went 5-11 with a home run. Sunday he was only 1-5 against the Nationals, but you didn't see a foul ball that missed being a home run by a few feet or a rocket right at the shortstop that turned into a lineout (and double play). You could use numbers like BABIP and HR/FB to show he's been pretty unfortunate with the way the ball has bounced this season, too, but there's really no need. We know Hanley is going to hit, and he's finally starting to do so.

If everything comes together, this is a pretty formidable bunch, actually. The Ramirez-Sanchez-Stanton-Morrison group through the middle could be pretty scary for opposing pitchers for years to come, and that's without even mentioning Coghlan at the top. And, again, they have a really good pitching staff, too.

So if the Marlins hang around with the Braves and Phillies all season, don't be surprised.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: April 28, 2011 9:56 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Pepper: Talking Thursday's pitchers

By Matt Snyder

BASEBALL TODAY: Will Kyle McClellan remain perfect on the season? Can Ryan Dempster get back on track? Will Jon Lester get the Red Sox a much needed win? I joined Lauren Shehadi to discuss some of Thursday's more intriguing starting pitchers.

DISABLED DELMON: Twins outfielder Delmon Young hadn't played since April 18, but was hoping to avoid a DL stint. Instead, he's been unable to to get loose during batting practice and the Twins finally saved and placed him on the DL, retroactive to April 19. That's quite a while the Twins played short-handed, and they've been doing so pretty much all season anyway. At some point, expect their fortunes to turn. It all has to even out, right? (MLB.com )

SLOGGING SOX:
The White Sox have gotten the bad end of basestealing this season offensively and defensively. They've allowed opposing runners to swipe 19 bags in 21 chances while only converting 14 of 30 attempts of their own. That's a vast discrepancy. The latter part of the equation is especially tough to understand with Juan Pierre in the lineup, considering he stole 68 of 86 last season. He's only five of 11 thus far in 2011. Of course, manager Ozzie Guillen had his usually colorful explanation on the matter: "We don't have that many people on base, so maybe we forgot how to run the bases." (Chicago Sun-Times )

THERIOT BACK SOON: The Cardinals don't expect Ryan Theriot to need a trip to the disabled list with his current ribcage injury. He may even take the field Thursday against the Astros. (StLtoday.com )

BELT BACK IN OUTFIELD? One of the reasons the Giants were said to have initially brought Brandon Belt to the majors on the opening day roster was that he was a superior first baseman. Of course, it also pushed Aubrey Huff into right field, where he's a butcher. So when Belt returns, it will reportedly be as an outfielder. He'd likely fit on either corner. The move only sounds like it would be for early in Belt's career, as general manager Brian Sabean said: "We know he can play first base." (SFgate.com )

LOGAN'S CAST: Logan Morrison of the Marlins recently got a cast off his injured foot. He's now selling the cast on eBay with proceeds going to the American Lung Association. That's not all, as he had the cast signed by every member of the Marlins -- except Hanley Ramirez.

CUDDYER ON MINORS: Twins slugger Michael Cuddyer writes a column for FOX Sports North, and in his latest installment he discusses the minor leagues, specifically how much it makes him appreciate the majors. He goes through the differences of each level, specifically how travel, food and lodging all get better with each promotion. I especially enjoyed this part about Class A: "I was only 19 and excited to start my professional career, so I really didn’t mind the six-hour bus ride to Clinton, Iowa. I didn’t mind the Econo Lodge that had a hole in the floor where I could see the room below me. I didn’t even mind the $12 per diem we received for all three meals. I didn’t know any better — I just thought it was great that I got to play baseball every day." (fsnorth.com )

AARDSMA STILL NOT READY: Mariners closer David Aardsma is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma. It was his fourth outing, but he still wasn't right -- as he gave up a walk and triple to begin the inning. According to manager Eric Wedge, the Mariners are going to "give him the time that he needs to just get more comfortable being on the mound." (Seattle Times )

CEDENO OUT, WOOD IN: Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno was benched Wednesday night for the second straight game and it was said to be a "manager's decision" by skipper Clint Hurdle. Tuesday night, Cedeno entered as a pinch-runner and was caught stealing. Later in the game, he received an at-bat and grounded out to third. He must have thought the ball was foul, because he didn't run it out. Interestingly, the once-touted-now-maligned Brandon Wood got the start at short in each of the past two games. It's early and a small sample, but Wood is showing some good signs. He's hitting .250 with a double, two runs and two RBI. The best news, however, is that he's walked twice and only struck out once, giving him a .400 on-base percentage. (Bucco Blog )

BELTRE SUSPENDED BY Rangers: Yeah, if it was Adrian he'd get his own story. We're talking about 21-year-old Rangers prospect Engel Beltre. What happened was Double-A Frisco of the Texas League had a would-be go-ahead home run overturned and ruled a double in the ninth inning of a recent game. Both the manager and pitching coach were ejected in the aftermath. Then water bottles began to be thrown on the field by fans and a plastic trash can was hurled into the stands by Beltre. “It is definitely not something we condone,’’ Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “It is a black eye for all involved.’’ (ESPN Dallas )

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