Up next are the Chicago Residents, owned by Mr. Corey, who was everyone's pick to win it all last year, following his runner up finish in 2009 and a lengthy keeper list. Unfortunately, half his roster turned into pumpkins by Mother's Day, and he ended the year tied for 9th with yours truly. But he ended up with an interesting keeper list and 5 picks in the first two rounds, two of which he dealt away for a 2012 first rounder. Is he punting for next year or in it to win it this year? Let's take a look with some assistance from our favorite band for Georgia, R.E.M. and their classic album Out of Time.
40,000 stars in the evening, look at them fall from the sky.
This has the potential to be the best infield in the league, but I doubt it will happen, since Chase Utley is looking more and more doubtful for the season as time goes on. Still, starting off with the best 3B (David Wright) and catcher (Brian McCann) makes a decent core that should make up for a multitude of sins. And one of those sins is carrying defensive-first shortstop Starlin Castro. Was Kevin Elster unavailable? Another potential sin is relying on Billy Butler to improve to the star everyone's been predicting he'll become, but has yet to happen. Him and Justin Smoak could combine for anywhere from 20 to 60 home runs. I'll take the under.
I sat there looking ugly, looking ugly and mean.
Balanced. Brett Gardner provies steals, Jim Thome provides nominal power and OBP, Heyward is a potential monster, and Andre Ethier perfectly encapsulates being well-rounded. Still, there's going to need to be some improvement by Heyward here for this to be an asset, because Thome is not going to improve off last year's stats, and Gardner has no power to provide. Michael Morse is also on the bench, presumably to show that Corey has a sense of humor.
Throw your love around, love me, love me.
Talented up top with some good risks to follow. Justin Verlander and Josh Johnson makes a 1-2 punch that's as good as any in the league. Mat Latos strikes me as someone with potential to regress a bit in the fantasy realm, what with no Adrian Gonzalez behind him and a huge jump in innings last year, but he's a fine risk for the 3rd slot. As is Shawn Marcum, who also appears to have injury concerns. The fun wildcard here is Mike Minor, who should be up by Memorial Day and doing damage to the craptitude of the bottom of the NL. This should be one of the better staffs if they can avoid injuries.
The world is collapsing around our ears.
There are six relievers on this roster. If you ranked them from best to worst, the best would probably be, in some order, Daniel Bard, Hong Chi-Kuo and Ryan Madson. What do all three of them have in common? Right. They're not closing. Those guys are all on the periphery of closing, but probably aren't even their team's second options--we're seeing it now in Philly with Madson still in the setup role with Lidge hurt, and you have to think that Bobby Jenks and Kenley Jansen are ahead of the other two if Paps and Broxton go down (or suck). That doesn't mean they're bad roster players--they'll add good K's, help the rate stats and pick up some vulture wins. But not many saves.
The other three relievers are actually closing but are something of a mixed bag. Joe Nathan was an elite closer but is coming back from surgery that cost him 2010, and at 36, is a giant question mark. Matt Thornton was sneaky good the last couple of years for the ChiSox, but is also older than you think (34) and strikes me as a guy who will regress, and is flanked by some very good relievers in case he fails. And Huston Street is an injury risk and pitches in Coors. You would think this could all balance out to a lot of saves and vulture relief goodness, but I'm skeptical.
It seems a shame you waste your time on me.
There are two teams we never seem to predict correctly. One is Will, whose abilities to defy our predictions is well-documented. This is the other one. In '09 I thought they'd have a strong season, Teddy's PECOTA predictions had them at the bottom of the heap, and a great Carl Crawford season later, they were an excellent second. Last year, the entire league thought they were the team to beat; they finished 9th. So take this prediction with a dome of salt.
If the health holds up all around, there's a lot to like on this team, as the infield and starting pitching could be sick. On the other hand, the relief pitching could make you sick because as noted, the good pitchers aren't closing and the closers aren't good pitchers. There's enough hedges between injuries and performance variables that this team seems set for a middle-of-the pack finish.