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With the Super Bowl now little more than a distant memory and spring training coming up quickly, it’s time to talk about baseball.

Tulo

Most of you know that Troy Tulowitzki is my favorite player.  I truly believe that Tulo will eventually win an MVP – could it be this year?  It’s true that Coors Field inflates a hitter’s numbers, but I think Matt Holliday has shown that the true value of a Rockies hitter is somewhere between his home and road splits.  Holliday didn’t turn into a mediocre player when he left, and Tulo likewise would adapt and thrive in a different environment.

Tulo provides something that no other shortstop in the game does – power.  He has 89 homers in the last few years.  Hanley Ramirez as the second most homers among shortstop in that period, with 55.  The position is so weak in terms of power hitters that Clint Barmes – whom Tulo shoved aside at SS for the Rockies – is 8th on the list with 43 homers.

Rockies

And what of the rest of the Rockies team?  The front office showed its recent willingness to spend money by signing OF Michael Cuddyer to a three year deal.  They also picked up Casey Blake to play third base (although prospect Nolan Arenado could make a push for the spot at some point in the season) and traded for Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro.  The Red Sox made the Scutaro deal mostly to free up money and keep them under the luxury tax threshold.  From a pure talent perspective, it was a great trade for the Rockies.  Scutaro will play second base for the Rockies and should provide good on base skills near the top of the lineup.

There will also be a change at catcher, with Chris Iannetta being traded.  Ramon Hernandez will hold the job as long as he can hold off top prospect Wilin Rosario.

Whereas the lineup for the Rockies will be more veteran-infused than last year, the same can not be said for the pitcher staff.  Ubaldo Jimenez will be gone and Jorge De La Rosa will not return until around Memorial Day.  I’d expect Jhoulys Chacin to be the staff leader early in the year.  His record in the past two year is 20-25, but with an ERA around 3.50.  That’s an outstanding ERA for someone who plays half their games in Coors, especially at a young ago.  I think Chacin is going to blossom into a consist 16-18 game winner very soon.

There are a lot of people competing for the other rotation spots.  I see Drew Pomeranz and new acquisitions Guillermo Moscoco and Josh Outman.  In De La Rosa’s absence, I can see Alex White or Jamie Moyer nabbing a spot.  Closer Huston Street was traded and the job will fall to Rafael Betancourt, who should to a fine job.

NL Central changes

The National League Central will see huge changes in 2012.

The most notable change was the Cardinals losing Albert Pujols to free agency.  They did sign Carlo Beltran and will also benefit from the return of co-ace Adam Wainwright, but  when you lose the best hitter in baseball, the impact will be felt.  Financially, it may have been wise for the Cardinals to pass on Pujols – especially when his skills begin to erode – but right now, he’s still an excellent hitter.  This is Matt Holliday’s time to step from behind the Pujolsian shadow and lead.

The rival Brewers also lost their first baseman, with Prince Fielder going to Detroit.  While the Cardinals had a fighting chance to retain Pujols, there was no chance the Brewers would be able to make a competitive offer.  To rub salt in the wound, Fielder’s partner in crime, reigning MVP Ryan Braun, will miss 50 games due to a PED suspension.  The Brewers did sign 3B Aramis Ramirez to add some pop to their lineup.

The Cubs finally rid themselves of Carlos Zambrano, who had become a major distraction.  This might actually be addition by subtraction – which is sad to say, considering that Zambrano has immense talent.  They also lost Aramis Ramirez to the Brewers.  Shortstop Starlin Catro was questioned by police regarding a sexual assault allegation, although there hasn’t been any news on this in several weeks.

With all this unrest at the top, is this the year the Pirates win the Central?  Perhaps?

Around the horn

The most under-rated player in the game is Rangers catcher Mike Napoli.  He had 30 homers in a mere 369 at bats last year – as a CATCHER.  Napoli never seems to get 500-600 at bats, but it he does, his numbers could go through the roof.  Last year was a fluke in the homers department for Napoli, either.  He’s emerged as a safe bet for 20+ homers, regardless of how much playing time he gets. Make sure you get Napoli in your fantasy league, as catcher is always a thin position.

Will Yu Darvish be a stud or a bust?  Although there have been comparisons to Daisuke Matsuzaka, the truth is that while Matsuzaka was very good in Japan, he wasn’t nearly as dominant as Darvish was.  Darvish also has the benefit of being in a smaller media market, rather than be thrust into the Red Sox – Yankees rivalry.

Brian Matusz is a far better pitcher than his 2011 numbers (1-9, 10.69 ERA) indicate.  Injuries likely contributed.  Don’t undervalue him as a fantasy player.

On the flip side, Ivan Nova isn’t nearly as good as his 16-4 record in 2011 would lead you to believe.  Expect worse numbers in 2012.

 

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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