Monday, April 30, 2012

Complete Evaluation of the Packers Draft

Before I get into this, I want to commend the work of Ted Thompson and the rest of Green Bay's staff who worked very hard this offseason on scouting and really making a valiant effort in tending the Packers' needs in this NFL Draft. We were aggressive, and got exactly what we were looking for. 

The Packers selected Nick Perry out of USC in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
(Stats courtesy of,, and

1st Round Pick 28: Nick Perry, DE, Southern California (6-3, 271)  — With Whitney Mercilus and Shea McClellin off the board, Nick Perry was the best available pick for the Packers to take, except for Courtney Upshaw. Perry will help repair the lack of pass rush the Packers had in 2011-2012. Perry is durable, and is willing to move from the defensive end position and move to outside linebacker.

2nd Round Pick 51: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State (6-2, 310) — To have Worthy available this late was an absolute steal for Green Bay. Some predicted Worthy going as the Packer's number one pick. Being 300 plus pounds, Jerel is very quick with his hands and great first step quickness as well. Some question his effort, as it seemed he only showed up at games that mattered. Hopefully he knows every game in Green Bay matters.

2nd Round Pick 62: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt (5-11, 192) — It's difficult to say how Hayward will be used in Capers' scheme. If he stays at corner, his average speed and good agility probably will move him inside to cover slot receivers in four- or five-wide formations, especially in zone looks. If he's asked to play safety, he could be effective at the Free Safety spot where he could read the quarterback's eyes and track down deep balls, and his average speed probably puts him slightly above average at safety.

4th Round Pick 132: Mike Daniels, DT, Iowa (6-0, 291) — Daniels started 21 games his final two years at Iowa and led the Hawkeyes in sacks both seasons. He was named second-team all-Big Ten by the coaches following the 2011 season. His nine sacks last year was good enough to finish third in the Big Ten. After fighting through ankle injuries as a senior, Daniels recovered to become a force by the end of the 2011 season. He led team in tackles for loss (13.5-63) and QB sacks (9-53). Daniels produced one of the most dominant defensive games in Iowa history in a late-season 31-21 win at Purdue. Daniels recorded five tackles for loss, including three QB sacks, and a career-high nine tackles. Though Daniels may not have a starting spot in 2012, he will in years to come.

4th Round Pick 133: Jerron McMillian, SS, Maine (5-11, 203) — McMillian will have to earn his keep as a special teams leader in Green Bay. He certainly possesses the size and speed to be a factor, and that could buy him enough time to develop into a role player on defense. McMillian brings a physical presence to the back end of the defense, reacts to passes well and can force his body hard in one direction to make a play toward the ball, much like he does in his reactions to the run. He is quick to diagnose run and pass, and reacts to the run much better coming toward the line of scrimmage than he does moving away. McMillian is NFL-ready in supporting the run. 

5th Round Pick 163: Terrell Manning, LB, North Carolina State (6-2, 237) — The Green Bay Packers traded a sixth-round and two seventh-round picks to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round choice that turned out to be Manning on Saturday afternoon. Manning had 55 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and five sacks over his final seven games at N.C. State. Manning will be about to shadow Matthews nicely to bring back the much needed pass rush. This pick was a steal for Green Bay, as many expected Manning to be long gone by the 5th Round.

7th Round Pick 241: Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State (6-6, 315) — Datko is fast off the line of scrimmage and immediately fits on his blocks whether it be linemen or working up field. He is not an explosive mover, but he can stay with his blocks once on them. In pass protection he can struggle at times but usually blocks long enough to get the job done. He makes up for his average athletic ability by being technically sound and understanding how to use his hands and feet to keep defenders occupied. He works hard to keep defenders moving in the run game and, despite his weaknesses, is a "get the job done" player at the end of plays and games.

7th Round Pick 243: B.J. Coleman, QB, Tennessee-Chattanooga (6-3, 233) — When the Green Bay Packers drafted B.J. in the seventh round Saturday, Coleman told coach Mike McCarthy this would be the best pick they ever made. Coleman is intense. The game consumes him. Every red-blooded, mid-'90s kid in Tennessee dreamed of being Peyton Manning. But Coleman took the challenge seriously. Coleman originally attended Tennessee with Manning's career arc in mind. But when Lane Kiffin demoted Coleman for Jonathan Crompton in 2009, he transferred to Chattanooga. A film-room hermit, he needed to play. And in three years, Coleman threw for 6,871 yards, 52 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

Undrafted Free Agents: (via

Jaymes Brooks, G/C, Virginia Tech (6-2, 307) — A three-year starter at right guard for the Hokies, Brooks was also named second-team All-ACC twice. He’s versatile enough to play all three interior offensive line positions, but most teams considered him too small to play guard at the NFL level. He played in a zone blocking scheme at Virginia Tech. If he shows something, the Packers may consider grooming him as their future center. They definitely like versatile offensive lineman.

Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State (6-4, 215) — Moss played basketball for four seasons before playing one season of football at SDSU. He’s extremely raw, but a great athlete with size and leaping ability. In his one season of football, he led the Jackrabbits with 61 catches for 949 yards and six touchdowns. He has great potential, but needs to put on more muscle. Could be this year’s Tori Gurley.

Don Barclay, OT/G, West Virginia (6-4, 305) — A two-year starter at left tackle for the Mountaineers, Barclay was named first-team All-Big East by the coaches in 2011. He’ll probably play guard at the pro level because of his size. Unfortunately, that’s about all we know about him. It doesn’t seem like he was scouted heavily and that probably means it’s unlikely he’ll make an NFL roster.

Sean Richardson, SS, Vanderbilt (6-3, 216) — Projected by CBS Sports as a seventh-round pick, Richardson was a three-year starter for the Commodores. He had 63 tackles, including 6.5 for a loss his senior season. He also had one interception and a sack. Coverage isn’t a strong suit, but he plays well against the run. Richardson actually considered coming out after his junior season. The Packers will reportedly convert him to linebacker.

Nic Cooper, RB, Winston-Salem State (5-9, 249) — Cooper put up some impressive rushing stats at Division II Winston-Salem State. He ran for 1,808 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2011, averaging 6.8 yards per carry while leading his team to a 13-1 record. It doesn’t look like that will matter in Green Bay, though. The Packers will convert Cooper, who left school with a year of eligibility remaining, to fullback.

Dezman Moses, DE, Tulane (6-3, 248) — Moses was a second-team All-Conference USA selection in 2011 after recording 52 tackles and 9.5 sacks for the Green Wave. He started his college career at Iowa before transferring to Tulane, where he was a two-year starter. Moses will transition to outside linebacker in Green Bay. He’ll likely need to put on some muscle to compete at the NFL level.

Dion Turner, CB, Southern Utah (6-0, 195) — Turner was a first-team All-Great West selection his senior season. He only started playing football his senior year of high school. He played safety before switching to cornerback in college. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about him because he played at Southern Utah.

Marc Tyler, RB, USC (5-11, 230) — Tyler split time in the USC backfield in 2011, rushing for 568 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry. His best season came in 2010, when he ran for 913 yards, nine touchdowns and averaged 5.3 per carry. Tyler was suspended for the first game of the 2011 season for making what were considered inappropriate comments about athletes getting paid at USC. Tyler obviously has some talent and he also has the USC pedigree. Could push for a roster spot, just like Brandon Saine did last season after going undrafted out of Ohio State.

Drew Vanderlin, DE, Michigan Tech (6-4, 280) — Vanderlin, who played at Green Bay Southwest, had 20 career sacks for the Huskies. He finished the 2011 season with 33 tackles and 6.5 sacks while earning first-team All-GLIAC honors. Vanderlin projects as a defensive end in the NFL, but seems better suited for a 4-3 defense. He’ll need to bulk up considerably to have a shot at playing end in the Packers 3-4, which already has a pretty crowded defensive line group.

Eric Lair, TE, Minnesota (6-3, 232) — Lair looks like he was the forgotten man in 2011. A year after catching 39 balls for 526 yards and two touchdowns, Lair caught only 11 balls for 168 yards and one touchdown in 2011. He put those numbers up in eight games. There seems to be some question as to Lair’s position as well. Although he played tight end in college, he may be converted to a fullback/H-back in the NFL.

Tommie Draheim, G, San Diego State (6-4, 305) — A first-team All-Mountain West selection in 2011, Draheim played left tackle in college. He was a three-year starter for the Aztecs. Draheim is limited athletically and lacks footwork to play left tackle in the pros, which is part of the reason he’s being projected as a guard.

Duane Bennett, RB, Minnesota (5-9, 205) — Bennett was a pretty average back for the Gophers, rushing for 639 yards and three touchdowns his senior season, while averaging 3.8 yards per carry. He’ll need to show something on special teams to have any shot of securing a spot in the NFL.

Cameron Ford, TE, Wake Forest (6-4, 255) — Ford recorded only 12 receptions for 99 yards and three touchdowns his senior season, his first as a regular starter. Ford is another guy who’ll have to show a lot on special teams to have any shot at making an NFL roster.

Marcus Rivers, WR, Buffalo (6-5, 220) — Rivers recorded 60 receptions for 615 yards and two touchdowns in 2011 with Buffalo, the alma mater of James Starks. He was named second-team All-Mid-American. Rivers isn’t fast, but he’s an imposing target at 6-5 and uses his body well.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Green Bay Packers 7 Round Mock Draft Picks

The Packers main focus this draft will be to patch the holes in it's defense. Here is a quick run down of my mock draft on the direction the Packers will go in this draft, which starts on ESPN tonight 8PM ET.

The 2012 Draft is set for the Packers to improve what they lacked on defense in 2011, as well as looking to the future.

1st Round 28th Overall: Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois 

The Packers may have to trade up to get him, as the Bears, Titans, and Broncos all have interest in him as well. However, I believe Ted Thompson will get him on the Packers any way possible. You can't let him slip away, considering the Packers have late picks in all 7 rounds. Whitney is a great pass rusher and is listed as a outside linebacker even though he played defensive end in college. He would play opposite of Clay Matthews and really upstart our pass rush again. (Note: If Whitney Mercilus is taken early, the Packers will have their eyes set on Nick Perry, DE, USC and Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State.)

2nd Round 59th Overall: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson or Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

The Packers will get one of these two gentlemen. Don't be fooled by the word gentlemen, as these are big boys. Andre Branch, 6 foot 4 inches, weighs in at 260 pounds and Brandon Thompson, 6 foot 2 inches, weighs in at 314 pounds. Both men can play any position on the defensive line. Branch is the better pass rusher, but Thompson is the better defender against the run which are two big areas the Packers need to improve on.

3rd Round 90th Overall: Ron Brooks, CB, LSU

Charles Woodson, meet Ron Brooks. A lot of fans will not like the Packers taking him, for many reasons. One, Brooks will replace Woodson eventually. Two, he was never a starter at LSU. And you can't blame him. He was 3rd on the depth chart behind Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne. However, at the combine he was a top performer in the 40 yard dash (4.37 seconds) and vertical jump (38.0 inches). Finally, he's small. Only at 5 foot 10 inches, about 2 inches shorter then what a corner back should be. However, even with his height his speed and awareness will make him a star.

4th Round 123rd Overall: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin 

Why not? Packers can't go into the season with just two quarterbacks. And, to benefit Russell, what better then to be under the wings of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Clements? John Gruden, and many others, consider Wilson to be a sleeper in this draft. Some comparing him to Drew Brees when Brees was said to be "too short", just like Wilson. Wilson already has a huge following in Wisconsin, coming from the Badgers. So, he has that going for him too.

4th Round 132nd Overall (compensatory): Philip Blake, C, Baylor 

Jeff Saturday, the veteran, will be the starting center for the Packers in 2012. No questions asked. But, being at his age, Packers need to start grooming a new center after losing Scott Wells in the offseason. Saturday is great, but I have a feeling durability will be a question for him in 2012. Philip Blake offers Green Bay some insurance at the center position.

4th Round 133rd Overall (compensatory): Phillip Thomas, S, Syracuse

With the release of Nick Collins, this pick makes a lot of sense. Thomas has played every game the last two seasons for Syracuse. Also, undersized, he still managed to rack in 85 tackles and 6 interceptions in 2011. Thomas is a competitive and active safety who is very physical in run support. He displays good foot speed in the open field when playing zone and can keep receivers off their routes with his physicality in man coverage.

5th Round 163rd Overall: Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson 

Very quick, fast, and agile. Is effective in man coverage, and can turn and run with most receivers. Decent in zone as well. Had a strong senior year, improving as the season unfolded. Smart, healthy, durable, and productive. Coty Sensabaugh was a football, basketball, and track star in high school. Sensabaugh broke into Clemson's secondary rotation as a redshirt Freshman in 2008. Sensabaugh looks like a track star, with a thin build, long arms, and high hips. During his senior season, Sensabaugh was given a lot of press man coverage assignments, and provided consistently tight coverage.

6th Round 197th Overall: Bryce Harris, OT, Fresno State 

Look for this to be the big sleeper pick the Packers salivate over. With Chad Clifton gone after failing his physical, Bryce Harris gives the Packers a great chance to replace Clifton with no ill effects. Harris comes in at 6 foot 6 inches, 300 pounds. He's taller then Chad, but 20 pounds lighter. Regardless, he will be a great asset in "Project: Keep Aaron Rodgers Healthy". Harris closed out his career starting in 39 consecutive games over the last three seasons.

7th Round 224th Overall (from New York Jets): Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M

This will be a good late pick for the Packers. He's top 15 running backs available in the draft. As a junior in 2010 Gray rushed for 1,133 yards with 12 touchdowns and was an All-Big 12 honorable mention for the second consecutive season. Durability is a question for Gray, but overall a solid running back that will be available late.

7th Round 235th Overall: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas

These last two picks will be the first steps in looking to replace the legend of Donald Driver. As a freshman in 2008, Childs played in 12 games with one start and had 18 receptions for 273 yards and two touchdowns. As a sophomore he started eight of 13 games and led the team with 48 receptions for 894 yards and seven touchdowns. As a junior in 2010, he played in eight games and had 46 receptions for 659 yards and six touchdowns before suffering a season ending patellar tendon injury. Durability, again, may be an issue.

7th Round 243rd Overall (compensatory): Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan

After redshirting during the 2006 season, White appeared in nine games for the Broncos. After missing the 2008 season due to injury, White finished the 2009 season with four 100-yard receiving games. 2010 was White's break out year. The Sports Illustrate Honorable Mention All American led the team in receiving yardage (1,378 total yards), as well as took over punt return duties for the Broncos. White was named to All-MAC First Team. White was given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA to return to Western Michigan due to his injuries during the 2008 season. In 2011 he led NCAA Division 1 in receptions (140), total yards (1,911), and yards per game (147.0). White finished with 4,187 yards, 306 receptions, and 32 touchdowns with Western Michigan.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: NL West

Well people, we've made it. This is the last installment of the 2012 MLB season preview. Thank you to all those who read the NL Central preview from last week, I got a lot of great feedback. With the regular season just a few days of fully being underway, let's wrap this up with the National League West.

About the only question mark when spring training opened for the Arizona Diamondbacks was the availability of shortstop Stephen Drew, and it became clear early on that he would not be ready for opening day while recovering from the effects of a season-ending ankle injury July 20. Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald will share the position. The D-backs were encouraged by the progress of young pitching prospects Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin and know where to turn if injuries strike the already set rotation.

Stephen Drew is helped off the field in 2011 after his season ending leg injury.

The D-backs like Kennedy and Hudson so much that they talked about opening negotiations on long-term contracts with both after talks with catcher Miguel Montero fell apart early in spring. Both are coming off career years, and Hudson has added a slider that could be used as a put-away pitch to go along with his fastball/changeup mix. Cahill struggled in his early spring work, but that is his history and the D-backs are not concerned. Collmenter was pushed back from one early spring start because of forearm tightness, but because of his work last season was guaranteed a rotation spot by manager Kirk Gibson, providing he is healthy. Bauer is probably the top option.

Kirk Gibson likes to play match-ups and also likes to go right-left-right when possible, especially against teams that have multiple left-handers available in the bullpen, and it showed in the 118 lineups he employed last season. Like many teams, he does not have a true speed/on-base leadoff hitter, and both Roberts and Young have hit there in the past. Upton and Montero had career years and hit 3-4 most of the time after Stephen Drew's injury in July, but newcomer Jason Kubel could work his way into the cleanup spot. Young was bothered by a nagging wrist/thumb injury the second half of 2011 and should improve his numbers. Goldschmidt is likely to hit lower in the lineup, at least in the early going, to remove some pressure. But he did hit forty home runs last season between Class AA Mobile and the D-backs, and could be a candidate to move up. Opening day will look like this:

1. Willie Bloomquist, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Miguel Montero, C 
5. Chris Young, CF 
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B 
8. Ryan Roberts, 3B

Final Thoughts: Much like their 2011 season, the Diamondbacks will rely heavily on their youth.
Blanco tutored Miguel Montero on the finer points of footwork and defensive play last season while providing a strong clubhouse presence, and Overbay has been a mentor to Goldschmidt. The key to the Diamondbacks repeating will fall into the pitcher's hands, especially the bullpen.

The Colorado Rockies have had a healthy spring. They are hopeful of a fast start with thirteen of twenty-two games at home in April, and six of their nine road games against the Astros and Pirates. Jeremy Jhoulys Guthrie gives the rotation a much-needed veteran, who can be counted on to log 200 innings and has had a solid spring. Chacin has a world of potential but is still seeking the fastball command consistency to realize it. He came to camp with mild biceps soreness that hasn't kept him from doing his work but has caused his velocity to dip. The Rockies don't believe that will be a lingering issue as Chacin gains arm strength. Juan Nicasio has miraculously returned from a broken neck he suffered Aug. 5 and pitching as though nothing happened. He needed to prove he could physically and mentally come back from a horrific injury to win a spot in the rotation and has done so. Drew Pomeranz looks ready to build on his September call-up, when he made his major league debut at the end of his first professional season and pitched well in three of four starts. The Rockies will monitor his innings out of long-term concern, which will put a premium on having depth in the rotation. Jamie Moyer, 49, pitched well enough to win the final spot in the rotation and complete a stunning comeback after missing the 2011 season following Tommy John surgery.

Newest Rockie Michael Cuddyer looks like boost team's already deadly offense.

The lineup is deeper than last year and should score more runs, which will be of great benefit to a rotation that has questions concerning depth, experience and, ultimately, effectiveness. Dexter Fowler, who has gotten stronger through offseason conditioning, and Marco Scutaro have not hit well this spring, and Scutaro could end up seeing time hitting leadoff. Not because he's fast but because of his ability to get on base. The hope is that Scutaro, being a veteran, will find the groove that comes with experience. In Fowler's case, the hope is he can get his timing down with the leg kick he so successfully incorporated in the second half last year. He may be the key guy to making this lineup truly function well. Unfortunately, Fowler hasn't been on base enough to fully utilize his speed and try to steal, something the Rockies want him to do more of this season. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are marquee talents. Todd Helton is more of a doubles than home run hitter at this point but gets on base often and makes pitchers work and can wear them down and affect their psyche with so many foul balls. Michael Cuddyer and Ramon Hernandez are proven veterans who will help lengthen the lineup. Casey Blake failed in a spring bid for the third base job, leaving Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco to man the position. 

1. Marco Scutaro, 2B
Dexter Fowler, CF
Carlos Gonzalez, LF
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Todd Helton, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Ramon Hernandez, C
Jordan Pacheco, 3B

Final Thoughts: The biggest test is going to be the Rockie's starting pitching throughout the year. Offensively, they are set. As I said before, they are much deeper then last year, and their bench is more reliable. This Rockies team can make a push, but I think Arizona's pitching will be tough to outlast.

The San Fransisco Giants' rotation, among the best in the majors, won't have Vogelsong when the season opens. He probably will start the season on the disabled list after getting a slow start to spring training because of a back ailment. No problem, really. The Giants don't need a fifth starter until the ninth game on April 15. Tim Lincecum has a new two-year, $40.5 million contract, and Matt Cain just signed a five-year, $115 million contract.

Aces Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have new deals with the Giants for 2012.

Brian Wilson seems to be okay after being shut down late last season because of a bum elbow and rehabbing most of the offseason. Sergio Romo had an elbow problem but vows to be ready for the opener. Affeldt and Lopez were re-signed to maintain a dangerous left-handed presence, and their training camps have been near perfect and mistake-free.

Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera arrived in trades to boost an anemic offense, and Cabrera clearly had a better spring training than Pagan, who's replacing Andres Torres, who had a solid 2010 but struggled in 2011 and was shipped to the Mets in the Pagan deal. A healthy Buster Posey, whose season-ending leg injuries in May drastically hurt the Giants' playoff chances, will be a difference-maker. Without Freddy Sanchez, who will open on the disabled list because his shoulder isn't 100 percent, Emmanuel Burriss is a likely replacement at second, though veteran Ryan Theriot could get playing time. Brandon Crawford's chances of sticking at short will increase if he's able to hit in the .250 range.

1. Angel Pagan, CF
2. Melky Cabrera, RF
3. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Aubrey Huff. LF
6. Brandon Belt, 1B
7. Emmanuel Burriss, 2B
8. Brandon Crawford, SS

Final Thoughts: The Giants' three biggest health questions involved Buster Posey, Freddy Sanchez and Brian Wilson, and only Sanchez appears headed for the disabled list because his surgically replaced shoulder isn't sound. With Posey behind the plate and Wilson at closer, the Giants would be far more dangerous than the team that ended last season. Throw in additions Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, and the Giants are entering the season anticipating a run to the postseason similar to 2010.

LHP Ted Lilly of the Los Angeles Dodgers will open the season on the disabled list with a stiff neck but is expected to be ready to pitch by April 14th, after pitching in a simulated game and one rehab start. Clayton Kershaw will start both Opening Day on April 5th and the Dodgers' home opener on April 10th, making him the first Dodgers reigning Cy Young Award winner to start on Opening Day since Sandy Koufax in 1964. Chad Billingsley has made mechanical changes to his delivery in hopes of improving upon his second-half decline in 2011.

Javy Guerra and Kenly Jansen lead the back of the pen, with Guerra starting the year as the closer after converting 21 of 23 save opportunities in his rookie season. Jansen, who set a MLB record with 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings last season, lurks in the wings as the closer in waiting. Josh Lindblom is in a battle with LHP Scott Rice for a temporary spot in the bullpen for the first eight games of the regular season while Ted Lilly is on the disabled list. Thanks to a scheduled off day on April 9th, the Dodgers don't need a fifth starter until April 14th, creating a spot for the eighth relief pitcher.

Andre Ethier figures to bat cleanup on most days, especially against right-handed pitchers, with Rivera hitting cleanup and Ethier batting fifth against left-handers. Dee Gordon is projected to have a huge year on the base path, but many are concerned he will struggle finding his way on base.

Dee Gordon is a future star in the making for the Dodgers.
"If you have your three and four guys going, it's tough for the pitcher to choose his battles," Ethier said. "Our main goal is for me and Matt to play off each other and help each other get better, and beyond that help the guys in front of him and behind me."

1. Dee Gordon, SS
2. Mark Ellis, 2B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Andre Ethier, RF
5. Juan Rivera, LF
6. James Loney, 1B
7. Juan Uribe, 3B
8. A.J. Ellis, C

Final Thoughts: In addition to the Dodgers being sold to a group headed by Magic Johnson for $2 billion, the Dodgers have had a relatively healthy spring, with only a few minor injuries. RHP Blake Hawksworth will open the season on the disabled list after arthroscopic elbow surgery in January, but other than that the rest of the team will be injury-free as they break camp. It is only a matter of time before the Dodgers will be in the hunt again in the NL West.

The San Diego Padres believe Edinson Volquez, one of four players received from the Reds in exchange for Mat Latos, is positioned for a comeback, and Petco Park will aid into that comeback as it is a pitcher friendly ballpark. Tim Stauffer is the veteran of the staff and was a model of consistency last season. But the 27-year-old Cory Luebke has the makings of being the staff ace. Both Clayton Richard and Dustin Moseley are coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, although Moseley's was to his non-pitching left shoulder to keep it from dislocating while hitting. Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley says Richard has never thrown smooth and his velocity has already reached 93-mph.

Edinson Volquez looks to rebound and have a great season in a pitcher friendly stadium.

The Padres have lost a horse of a closer in Heath Bell through free agency. Huston Street doesn't have the durability to work three and four straight games, which means you could be seeing Andrew Cashner and Luke Gregerson in the closing role at times. Cashner hits three figures with his fastball and has a 90-mph change. Gregerson's slider was flat at times last year. Look for Anthony Bass to be working in the Padres bullpen rather than starting at Class AAA Tucson.

Not having Carlos Quentin to start the season is going to affect the Padres offense. He is the lone Padre with the potential to hit 20 homers. But the Padres believe their lineup will be better all around. Look for an improved season from Will Venable, who has had a great spring and finally seems to have found a counselor he can listen to in new hitting coach Phil Plantier. The Padres believe Cameron Maybin, who signed an extension through the 2017 season, will grow into being a 20-homer, 40-steal threat (he is already there in steals). Chase Headley is solid except for woefully low power numbers. Yonder Alonso is a line-drive hitter whose style is better suited to Petco Park than Anthony Rizzo's. Padres are looking for both Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett to rebound slightly in 2012. Hudson, a major disappointment last season, has been battling groin problems this spring.

1. Cameron Maybin, CF
2. Will Venable, RF
3. Chase Headley, 3B
4. Jesus Guzman, LF
5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
6. Nick Hundley, C
7. Orlando Hudson, 2B
8. Jason Bartlett, SS

Final Thoughts: The Padres will open the season without the slugger they acquired to hit in the No. 4 slot of what last season was the third-lowest run producing lineup in the major leagues. LF Carlos Quentin will miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season due to arthroscopic knee surgery on March 19th to repair a torn meniscus and remove floating particles. General manager Josh Byrnes believes the Padres could be improved in at least six spots in the lineup, including Quentin. But injuries are a concern.

Predicted Final Standings

1. San Fransisco Giants (93-69) (Division Champions)
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (88-74)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (80-82)
4. Colorado Rockies (75-87)
5. San Diego Padres (69-93)

And that does it! Opening Day is an hour or so away (Marlins vs. Cardinals on ESPN), and the Brewers' Opening Day is less then 48 hours away! Baseball is back! Thank you for reading all six of these blogs, I thoroughly enjoyed doing this. As always, please leave your thoughts on here or on the Twitter feed (@WISportsBlog) if you agree, disagree, or want to make a point. I look forward to reading your comments.

Also, one last thing. The Wisconsin Sports Blog (WISportsBlog) is now on Instagram! Follow that account for great pictures from Miller Park and around the realm of Wisconsin sports all year round! Thank you! 

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison