Let's get all the Dickey previews out of the way first. Of course, as Teddy noted elsewhere, neither of these teams actually has the reigning N.L. Cy Young winner on their roster. We can only assume that our beloved commish picked this name because he has recently retained the services of an enterprising young associate at Jones Day.
Last year the Commish outperformed his projected 6th place finish to come in 4th, still not good enough for his first cash in the league, but his 82 accumulated points was his best performance to date. Having also employed the Short Keeper List gambit, what's in store for Sir Andy this year?
This is probably the best infield in the league, where the worst player is Matt Wieters, one of the 5 best catchers in baseball. Miggy Cabrera figures to regress somewhat off his Triple Crown season, but the man is never hurt, has a career OBP of .391, and hits 30-40 home runs every year. He's going to be ridiculously valuable. Jose Reyes handles the steals department, which is good because Paul Konerko is slower than me and Dustin Pedroia figures to drop a few steals with his injury history. The only nit-pick is that Jed Lowrie the entire bench, which is comical.
Less good than the infield, which is almost true by default. Ryan Braun again needs no introduction -- I will assume he is not suspended for his, ahem, Florida activities -- but the Richard Heads have taken a lot of other players that I don't love. Shane Victorino is being asked to start when he's a platoon player. (Unfortunately, he's also being asked to start for Teddy beloved BoSox.) Alfonso Soriano is useful but not particularly good anymore. I don't love Torii Hunter switching teams and ballparks and see last year as his last signature season on a bad Hall of Fame application. And again the bench is shallow with Cody Ross' overpaid ass being all their is.
In short, this offense should hit the crap out of the ball and steal a lot of bases. But there's shockingly little room for error. Actually, maybe I shouldn't be shocked, because the team only kept four guys.
Even though my team isn't structured this way, I appreciate the way that the Commish has structured this year's team: take dependable hitting and roll the dice on starters because they're inherently more volatile. This made even more sense this year because a lot of the pitchers available in the draft were in what he loving dubbed "The Kuroda Zone": all viable #3 starters that were relatively the interchangeable.
The end result is a staff that isn't horrible but needs some improvement. Roy Halladay is a worthy dice roll as if he overcomes whatever has plagued him this spring and reverts to 2011 form, he's an ace. We keep waiting for Brandon Morrow to break out but maybe we should just accept that at age 29, he is what he is: tantalizing good at times, consistently inconsistent, and never really healthy for a full season. These aren't a bad 1-2 punch, but they're a clear step below the elite in the league.
The rest of the staff is schizophrenic between guys who have no upside and guys who have no performance history. Wei-Yen Chen, Mark Buerhle and The Cum Dempster are good for innings and getting their brains beat in by the American League, beating up rate stats. Shawn Marcum is a Met that's already injured. Ricky Nolasco makes Morrow look dependable. If any of these five are the fulcrum of this team's success, they're not going to win.
There are slight glimmers of hope in the young guys on the staff. Wade Davis is the one guy who could step forward with a good season out of nowhere, but he's a Royal, and even honk Rany Jazayerli seems to only have tempered enthusiasm about his chances. I'm sure Alexi Ogando is a good guy, but I'm also pretty sure he's not a good starter. That leaves Shelby Miller as the staff's real upside play, and while acknowledge that the Cardinals are great at bringing up pitching, he remains a rookie starter. That said, if he's spot started correctly against the Pirates, Cubs and some of the other dregs of the NL, it's likely that they can squeeze 90 good innings out of him this year.
Well they've seemingly locked up the Kansas City closer position with the Greg Holland/Kelvin Herrera duo, so unless Aaron Crow turns into a fireman, they're probably set for 30 saves and 12 head scratching decisions by Ned Yost. They're also relying on a rookie closer who nobody seems to like (Bruce Rondon) and a closer for a team that belongs in the Independent League (Steve Cishek). This isn't a punt on a category, but unless Rondon really turns into a stud, this will probably be a middle of the pack finish on saves.
The top-shelf talent is here on offense, but unsurprisingly, the short keeper list has left the bench lacking and the starting pitching in a state of flux. This is a contender if they can add a good hurler to the staff or have Braun pass along some magic beans to their ancient outfielders or young starters.