Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Season Preview: Quoth the Jennings

Every year we scramble for words to describe how worn out we are by the end of preview season. This year, thanks to the miracle of video, you can see for yourselves. (Skip to around the 0:30 second mark.)

Regardless, we here at the GRBG soldier on, bandy-legged and dehydrated, through the final preview. Let's take a look at Quoth the Jennings, starting with the name. The Poe reference just doesn't make sense to us. We have a difficult time envisioning Desmond Jennings perching on a bust of Pallas just outside a chamber door, unless of course "Pallas" is the nom de pole of a Tampa-area stripper. Which it probably is, now that we think about it. So never mind.


A glance at this team's IF evokes the full gamut of human emotion. Brian McCann is a great start at C--he's not as sexy as Santana or Wieters, but he's put up much more consistent numbers. But then things get dark. As Ang noted, Ike Davis is dying of consumption or something at 1B, and Kelly Johnson might as well already be dead, as he has put up a sub-.300 OBP in his last 1,100 ABs. But then things swing back to the positive with 3B David Wright, who is poised to benefit from the new shorter fences at Madoff Field, and SS Starlin Castro, who is the first plus shortstop to come into the league since . . . who, Hanley?  It's pretty tough to draw a line through all of those players, but we think the upshot is an average squad.


This is the year we find out just exactly what the hell Jason Heyward is. He really took a step backwards last year, and still hasn't hit for the HR power you'd expect of a guy his size. But he's still very young, and isn't that far removed from a .393 OBP season. If he gets back towards that sort of OBP and takes the usual age-related step up in power, he'll be a monster. But based on last year's numbers, there's also a chance he's just the evolutionary Jeff Francouer, with less power and more patience. We still believe.

Speed and OBP merchant Brett Gardner and Polish Met Lucas Duda round out the OF. While Gardner is sneaky useful, it's not at all clear that Duda does anything at an above-fantasy-average level. There might be some sneaky help on the roster, though, in the form of Kendrys Morales, who apparently somehow has OF eligibility. The team has Morales pencilled in to the UTIL spot now, but if they could find another bat, he'd make an intriguing possible upgrade on Duda or Davis. They'll need to find an upgrade somewhere, because the OF is underwhelming as constituted.

Starting Pitching

There are a lot of guys we like up top. Verlander is obvious, but we also like Brandon Beachy and Jordan Zimmerman to take steps foward this year, and like Phil Hughes in his fourth consecutive year as a flyer.. The problems come on the back end, where Bartolo Colon can't possibly do it again (can he?), and Brian Matusz is still an Oriole.

The problem is that while we like a lot of these guys more than most, we still don't think they can run with some of the other rotations who are deep in established stars. The owner did a nice cobbling job, but that's not going to be quite enough in what looks to be another good year for pitchers.


The Ryan Madson thing hurt, obviously, but there's still a decent set of relievers here. Sergio Santos was a great pickup in both real life and the league.We're leery of Javy Guerra (because of Kenley Jansen) and Raffy Betancourt (because he sucks), but they are still good candidates for save production. The Madson injury knocks these guys out of the megapen picture, but there's enough left to challenge for best of the rest.


If Heyward rebounds, there aren't any real glaring weaknesses on the team. The problem is that there aren't really any huge strengths, either. Verlander is clearly the best player on the team, and a true foundational player. But who's number two? McCann? Wright? Those guys are a level behind the truly elite, franchise fantasy guys. Because of the lack of stars, they'll need just about everything to go right to make a run. Says here that they don't get there.

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