2010 MLB Preview: NL Central

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the NL Central.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (4)
Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday could help the Cardinals win this division sauced out of their minds on a nightly basis. That said, would anyone really be surprised if Carpenter’s arm falls off and the starting pitching (which is among the best in the league) suffers? It’s happened before, so if you answered “yes” to the proposed question then you sir or madam, have not been paying attention. Still, the addition of Brad Penny (who pitched well in the second half last year) will strengthen the club’s starting pitching and Kyle Lohse is a fine middle of the rotation guy. Pujols and Holliday will ignite the offense again, although Colby Rasmus might be the key to whether or not this team makes a serious World Series run. Skip Schumaker is a solid table setter, but how Rasmus fairs hitting in front of Pujols and Holliday could be the difference between the Cards winning the NL Central again and playing for a championship. David Freese better produce too or else the club will regret not acquiring a veteran third baseman in the offseason. All in all, the Cardinals are the best the NL Central has to offer and should make another postseason appearance this season. But how far they go beyond that depends on whether or not Carpenter and Wainwright can continue their magic and if Pujols and Holliday receive help from the rest of the lineup.

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Jeff Passan’s 25 things you didn’t know about baseball


Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports recently discovered FanGraphs, a great baseball website which uses complicated algorithms to determine attributes about players. Passan compiled 25 intriguing stats that the common fan would never realize unless they went to this site.

1) The best fastball in baseball is 88.4 mph.

And it belongs to Jarrod Washburn. He also throws a slider, cutter, curveball and changeup, but his average-velocity fastball is the dagger of the bunch. At 22.4 runs above average this year, it has been more effective than the fastest (Ubaldo Jimenez) and the slowest (Jamie Moyer). The most amazing part: Washburn’s fastball was actually 8.3 runs below average last year.

6) The best pitch in baseball is a changeup, and you’ll never guess who throws it.

Tim Lincecum came up heralded for his blazing fastball and hammer curveball, and neither is close to his best pitch. Lincecum’s changeup has been 27.5 runs above average this year, the highest total for any pitch and almost double the second-best change, Brian Tallet’s 14-runs-above special. It’s not like Lincecum piles up the runs above average by throwing the changeup egregiously. His 5.62 runs above per 100 changeups thrown is also the best for that pitch.

15) One person has three pitches that are among the five best in runs above average.

More evidence that Dan Haren is the business: He’s got the best splitter in baseball (7.2 runs above average), the fourth-best cutter (13.7 above average) and the fifth-best fastball (19.3 above average).

25) Six players in baseball do not have a weakness on a specific pitch.

As you know, Pujols isn’t one of them. Joe Mauer is an easy guess, and it would be correct. Same with Cabrera, who has the privilege of being the only player above average in all six categories – knuckleball included. Torii Hunter(notes) just makes it, one-one hundredth a run in the black on curveballs, and his center field peer Adam Jones(notes) joins him. The two National League representatives come from the Central Division. Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto(notes) is a monster. The other is not. He hits .292. He slugs .386. He is the epitome of utility. The final player without a weakness: Skip Schumaker(notes).

If I’m a professional baseball player, I’m checking this site everyday, as it reports useable statistics scouts are even missing. The people they have contributing to the site are all very serious and spend days mapping out an athlete’s progression or regression in various areas. Be sure to check out Passan’s entire list as well as the FanGraphs page.

And what about that Dan Haren? These stats show that he has the stuff of a Cy Young-worthy pitcher. It should either be he or Lincecum who ends up with the award in the NL. While the Diamonbacks have no chance of making the playoffs, at least Haren can accomplish this feat on his own. As for Lincecum, his team is looking better by the day.

2009 MLB Preview: #13 St. Louis Cardinals

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Offseason Movement: The biggest move the Cardinals made this offseason was acquiring former Padres’ shortstop Khalil Greene, who the club hopes will bring a little pop to the lineup. St. Louis also added pitchers Trever Miller and Dennys Reyes, the latter of which posted a 2.23 ERA in 46 1/3 innings last season in Minnesota.

Top Prospect: Colby Rasmus, OF
Rasmus isn’t just the Cardinals’ top prospect – he’s one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Although St. Louis is expected to go with Chris Duncan as their starting left fielder, Rasmus’ potential is going to force him onto the field in 2009. The 22-year old isn’t expected to produce a high average right away, but he flashes good power and speed, while his defense is above average as well. Rasmus is a stud prospect and could become a household name in the next couple years.

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2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Second Basemen

Dustin Pedroia

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Second base is home to one of the biggest draft-day dilemmas: What to do with Chase Utley? I covered Utley’s situation in more detail here, but as you’ll see in the rankings below, I’m not concerned enough about his recovery from hip surgery to drop him from the top slot at second base. Reports out of spring training have all been positive and Utley maintains that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. As long as he doesn’t suffer a setback between now and my draft, that’s good enough for me.

Of course, my refusal to drop Utley’s ranking has as much to do with his talent as it does the general lack of depth at second base. Sure, there is some talent at the top of the list but once you get eight or 10 deep, things start looking rather bleak. Fortunately, there is a fair amount of upside to be harvested here, with several 28-and-under guys who could outperform expectations this season. You’ll have to pay a premium for some (like the reigning AL MVP) while others can be snagged in the mid- to late-rounds (like Arizona’s new potential leadoff man), but they all have the kind of upside that I look for on draft day. And while upside alone won’t win you a fantasy title, it’s a convenient tiebreaker that makes a guy like Brandon Phillips a little more attractive than the steadier but older Brian Roberts.

With that in mind, here is some of the young talent you’ll want to consider this season, and see below for my top-25 second basemen.

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