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2010 baseball season begins in 12 days. Teams are ready to make final cuts in preparation for another thrilling year of wire to wire action. I've assembled a short list of players to watch based on players in contract years, young talent, players who had off years in '09 and players who might have a hard time reproducing last years success. My players to watch.....
On the Rise?
1B - Kendry Morales (LAA) - Lit up AL pitching in his first full season (.306, 34 HR). He's the main man heading into '10 and is currently tearing up Cactus League pitchers.
2B- Martin Prado (ATL) - .307 career hitter in 258 games appears to get better every step of the way. Could be a breakout season on the way?
3B (2) - Brandon Wood (LAA) - Gets first crack at everyday 3B duties for Scioscia's Angels. He needs to produce at the plate to remain a starter. Has struggled with big league pitching in 224 career AB's. Gordon Beckham (CWS) - The future is now for ChiSox promising young 3B. He had a fine showing last year and should put up pretty solid numbers on the South Side.
SS (2)- Alcides Escobar (MIL) - He's been recipient of rave reviews and all seem convinced he's ready to handle the rigors of 162. Great upside if he lives up to hype. Ian Desmond (WAS) - Look out. He's on the verge of winning the starting nod over veteran Guzman. This guy has serious range and can hit. It won't be long before he's Washington's full time starting SS.
LF- Nelson Cruz (TEX) - Might open up in RF over LF but for purposes of this post he's in left. Tearing up Cactus pitchers (1.283 OPS) after rocking 33 HR's in only 128 '09 games. Hitters friendly Texas offers room for tremendous numbers in '10.
CF- Austin Jackson (DET) - The Yankees will soon regret trading Jackson. He's a future star. New York has been famous for developing star CF's (Dimaggio, Mantle, Williams). They really goofed trading him for Granderson. Grandy's dandy but Jackson is a 5 tool real deal.
RF- Jayson Heywood (ATL) - Reminds me of Dave Parker. Imposing figure. Big time hitter hasn't had any problems with his first dose of major league pitching. Braves RF job is his. Rookie of the Year candidate.
C- Matt Wieters (BAL) - A huge load has been placed Baltimore's future star and he'll be learning on the job. Don't expect much this year in fantasy value. If he can settle down an erratic O's staff then good days are coming.
SP- JA Happ (PHI) - 12-4, 2.83 in '09 during his first full campaign. He looks locked and loaded early this spring. Potential 20 game winner should nail down no less than 15 this year.
Contracts, Comebacks or Tough to Repeat:
1B- Troy Glaus (ATL) - Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Can Glaus chip in and give the Braves a good year offensively? It'll be his first in Atlanta and first as a full time 1B. If he can contribute then look out for the Braves.
2B (2)- Rickie Weeks (MIL) This is probably Weeks' last shot to prove he's in Milwaukee to stay. Injuries, lack of consistency has haunted Rickie's career. In a lineup of big bats all he has to do is get on base. 2B- Howie Kendrick (LAA) Add Kendrick to the list. Can he finally stay healthy? He's yet to play more than 105 games in 4 big league seasons. He's a .302 career hitter. Big things are expected from him in '10.
3B- David Wright (NYM) Wright's .307 2009 batting average is deceiving. He was basically horrific in clutch situations and struck out 140 times. Complete power meltdown (10 HR) no thanks to new home stadium that no one seems to like. CF walls have been lowered. Might not help with 15 footers in LF.
SS- Derek Jeter (NYY) - The Yankees captain plays in his final contract season. Most players in contract years put up tremendous numbers. DJ's concentration will be in tip top shape. Another 200 hit performance with added power numbers are well within reach.
LF (2) - Brett Gardner (NYY) - Yanks should have tried unloading Gardner in the Granderson deal instead of Austin Jackson. Or, keeping Melky? Gardner will not come close to duplicating Damon type numbers. Maybe experience is all this kid needs? Talk about a kid who needs to mature on the diamond in a hurry before Bronx boo-birds let him have it. Anything less than .275 and big time defense will have the front office looking for a trade deadline replacement. Raul Ibanez (PHI) - Began '09 as odds on favorite for NL MVP after wrecking pitching in April/May. It was a steady decline the rest of the way including .189 August. Yet he finished with 34 HR in 134 games. Stuggles continuing early in spring training. Fantasy owners beware.
CF- Jason Hamilton (TEX) Hammy wowed fans in 2008 leading the AL with 130 RBI and putting on a memorable home run smash brigade during the Home Run Hitting Contest at Yankee Stadium. Beseiged by injuries in '09, Jason is slated to shift from CF to LF. Injury bug keeps popping up. Needs to stay healthy or he could be another one hit wonder.
RF- Jason Werth (PHI) - I'm thinking he's already a potential NL MVP candidate. Bashed 36 HR's in a breakout season last year. Then went on to hit 7 more in post-season competition. Werth has arrived, plays in a hitters park and in the middle of NL's most potent lineup.
DH (2) - Ken Griffey, Jr (SEA) - Seattle fans really hope Junior can be a major force in 2010. It could be his last year. Griff's career was robbed by a variety of injuries. He'll always be regarded as one of baseball's best ever CF. Relegated to DH duties he will have plenty of opportunities to shine in M's new look lineup. As a baseball fan it would be sensational to watch Griff shine just one more time. Jason Kubel (MIN) - New expectations. New ball park. Jim Thome waiting in the wings. Had a very solid year average (.300) and power (28 HR). Balls flew off his bat last year. He'll face tougher pitching in '10.
C (2) - Joe Mauer (MIN) - 2009 AL MVP has been getting better every season. It'll be hard to top leading AL in batting average (.365), on base percentage (.444), slugging (.587) and OPS (1.031). Don't be surprised to see him challenge .400 in the not too distant future. Ryan Doumit (PIT) - It would be nice to see what kind of production Doumit can post by way of one full healthy season.
SP- Tim Lincecom (SF) - Back to back NL Cy Young having a rough spring. What's next for this young phenom? 33-12, 526 K's in past two years. Expectations are higher than ever for San Fran's ace hurler. Warning, keep an eye on his mechanics. They've been off so far this spring.