Using this preview: Some players will be spotlighted and there will be some knee-jerk rankings of each teams lineup, rotation and bullpen. Team previews, born from a desire to design a better cheat sheet, will start with the American League East and finish in the National League West. More previews here.
American League West
- Stud: Josh Hamilton, OF — As big time a hitter as they come. He’ll be worth whatever you pay for him.
- Bust: Chris Davis, 1B — Even though I just praised Hamilton, who doesn’t have a long track record, Davis’ projections in a lot of places seem a bit exaggerated, even though he plays in a hitter’s park.
- Sleeper: David Murphy, OF — He’s spent time with a couple different clubs, but take a look at his career numbers: 542 at-bats., 85 runs, 41 doubles, 5 triples, 18 homers, 90 RBIs, a .286 batting average and a robust .814 OPS. He’s currently the starter in left field, so he could get about 542 at-bats this season.
- Prospect to watch: Elvis Andrus, SS — His first at-bat this season will be his first in the majors ever, but he’s currently the 2009 starter. His stats from AA last year, to give you an idea what to expect: .295 average, 82 runs, 54 steals, 65 RBIs in only 482 at-bats.
- Wild Card: Hank Blalock , DH — Remember when Blalock was poised for stardom and when the moment never came? This year, Blalock is starting at DH, so like Pat Burrell and Billy Butler, he gets to concentrate on nothing but hitting. He’s tearing up spring pitchers. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him hit near .300 with 30 homers, 80 runs and 100 RBIs. And he’ll qualify as a third baseman.
- Starter you may not know but should: Jarred Saltalamacchia, C — Saltalamacchia, not Taylor Teagarden, is listed as the starter for now. The battle will rage on, but both might have value in deeper leagues. Saltalamacchia has 14 homers, 59 RBIs and 66 runs in 506 career at-bats. Teagarden debuted last year with a .319 average, 10 runs, 6 homers and 17 RBIs in just 47 at-bats. You know that trick with the multiply by at-bats to get full stats: .319-100-60-170. That’s a torrid pace that a catcher can’t keep up, but don’t be surprised when he starts hitting.
A — One of the best lineups in the game all nice and cozy in their slugger’s heaven.
C — Notice how no pitchers were mentioned above. You have to feel sorry for Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla. They could be stars in other ballparks.
B — Frank Francisco is listed as the closer. He saved only five games last year but struck out 83 in 63 innings. The best way to not allow runs in a small park, just strike everybody out. And if that theory doesn’t work the Rangers have amassed a collection of former closers to help out. C.J. Wilson, who saved 24 of 28 tries for the Rangers last season, is the No. 2 guy. Eddie Guardado has saved 187 games in his long career. And Derrick Turnbow had 39 and 24 saves for the Brewers in 2005 and 2006.