Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 MLB Season Preview: NL West

San Francisco Giants

Notable additions: Jeremy Affeldt (re-signing), Chad Gaudin (re-signing), Angel Pagan (re-signing), Marco Scutaro(re-signing), Andres Torres (free agent)

Notable losses: Clay Hensley (FA), Guillermo Mota (FA), Melky Cabrera (FA), Ryan Theriot (FA)

The Giants are coming off their second World Series win in three seasons, which seems odd. They never felt like a dominant team either year, but benefited from some fantastic individual performances to assist their already impressive core of talent. The Giants have a very specific way of building their roster, staying in contention with their solid core and then acquiring veterans on the cheap around the trade deadline to supplement their playoff runs. They then sign those veterans to extensions and if those don’t work out, they simply trade for another replacement.

Buster Posey (the 2012 NL MVP), Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Pablo Sandoval are the team’s headliners, and all rank among the best at their respective positions. Cain and Bumgarner head the starting rotation, which also features a solid veteran in Ryan Vogelsong, a mediocre veteran in Barry Zito, and a total wild card in Tim Lincecum, a former Cy Young winner who’s coming off a disaster season. If Lincecum’s velocity and command issues persist, the Giants don’t really have anyone to replace him. The bullpen is fantastic, and manager Bruce Bochy is excellent at using it properly.

For a World Series winner, their offense continues to be underrated. Posey is the best hitting catcher in the majors, Sandoval is terrific when healthy, and among the other starters only slick-fielding shortstop Brandon Crawford is likely to be below average. The defense is also solid, with Hunter Pence the only player with a weak glove.  Prospect Gary Brown is worth keeping an eye on as a mid-season replacement in left field.

Projected Roster

Catcher: Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Guillermo Quiroz
First Base: Brandon Belt
Second Base: Marco Scutaro
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval
Outfield: Andres Torres, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco
Utility: Joaquin Arias, Nick Noonan
Starting Pitchers: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito
Relief Pitchers: Chad Gaudin, George Kontos, Javier Lopez, Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo

Los Angeles Dodgers 

Notable additions: Zack Greinke (FA), JP Howell (FA), Hyun-Jin Ryu (FA), Skip Schumaker(FA), Brandon League (re-signing)

Notable losses: Juan Rivera (FA), Adam Kennedy (FA), Shane Victorino (FA), Tony Gwynn, Jr. (FA), Jamey Wright (FA), Randy Choate (FA)

The Dodgers have a lot of money. Like, a LOT of money. They swung a late season trade with Boston to absorb the massive contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford, signed former Brewer Zack Greinke to a massive deal in the offseason, and have no problem handing out large sacks of money to Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Brandon League, and just about everyone else on their pitching staff. Despite all of this, it’s hard to consider them a favorite in their own division, much less the NL. They’ve certainly improved on the 86-win team from last year, but injuries and lack of depth on the offense will likely keep them from running away with anything.

Kemp is an unquestioned superstar and heads a talented offense. Gonzalez and Ramirez are big names coming off of bad years. Andre Ethier is a decent player. Everyone else is a big question mark. Luis Cruz and AJ Ellis overachieved last year and aren’t long term options, Mark Ellis is just kind of okay, Carl Crawford hasn’t been healthy in over two seasons, and Dee Gordon sucks so hard. Even the stars have problems, with Ramirez missing the first couple months of the season, Gonzalez losing power, and Kemp having shoulder issues. Kemp and Ramirez are also asked to play positions the can no longer reasonably play defensively, which doesn’t help. Then bench is uninspiring, Jerry Hairston Jr. is a solid utility guy but the idea of Nick Punto and/or Juan Uribe starting in Ramirez’s place is kind of hilarious.

The pitching staff is deep. Clayton Kershaw and Greinke might be the best 1-2 in baseball, and Beckett’s not too shabby as a #3. Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu is a complete unknown and Chad Billingsley is due to suffer an elbow explosion, but Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, and Aaron Harang are waiting in the bullpen so it’s all cool. Kenley Jansen and League make up the back end of the bullpen, and both are solid.

Projected Roster

Catcher: AJ Ellis, Tim Federowicz
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez
Second Base: Mark Ellis
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez (DL)
Third Base: Luis Cruz, Juan Uribe
Outfield: Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier
Utility: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Alex Castellanos
Starting Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley
Relief Pitchers: Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, Brandon League

Arizona Diamondbacks

Notable additions: Martin Prado (trade), Randall Delgado (trade), Cliff Pennington (trade), Heath Bell (trade), Tony Sipp (trade), Didi Gregorius (trade),Tony Campana (trade),  Brandon McCarthy (FA), Matt Reynolds (FA), Wil Nieves (FA), Eric Chavez (FA), Eric Hinske (FA), Cody Ross (FA)

Notable losses: Justin Upton (trade), Chris Johnson (trade), Trevor Bauer (trade), Chris Young (trade), Brian Shaw (trade), Matt Albers (FA), Matt Lindstrom (FA), Mike Zagurski (FA), Lyle Overbay (FA), Henry Blanco (FA), Takashi Saito (FA)

The D-Backs have been in the headlines constantly this offseason, and it’s not for good reasons. The Upton, Young, and Bauer trades have gotten negative reviews and for good reason. Despite this, they should still be a competitive team in 2013. They have a good offense  and a deep pitching staff, but they are also devoid of stars in an attempt to build the club in manager Kirk Gibson’s image.

Miguel Montero is probably their best player, a well-rounded catcher who hits from the left side. He’s very good. Paul Goldschimdt is coming off s sophomore season where he hit better against right-handed pitching than expected but also showed less power than expected. Second baseman Aaron Hill is coming off something of a second breakout season, hitting for both average and power. Martin Prado is also a very good player and will man third base but can fill in just about everywhere else if injuries occur. Shortstop is a black hole offensively with Pennington and Gregorius being unable to hit a baseball with a baseball bat, but both are good fielders. The outfield has been downgraded with the trades of Young and Upton and the injury to Adam Eaton, but Cody Ross, Gerardo Parra, and Jason Kubel are still solid options. The bench is good despite the presence of Wil Nieves.

The pitching staff is also solid, but devoid of star-level talent. Ian Kennedy’s is the “ace” but his true talent is probably closer to his 2012 production than his 2011 production. Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley have probably already reached their upside. Brandon McCarthy is a cool dude and solid pitcher but the likelihood of him staying healthy all season is pretty close to zero. Randall Delgado has no third pitch and shaky control, so it’s probable that we see Patrick Corbin and/or Tyler Skaggs occupy that spot at some point. Daniel Hudson is coming off of Tommy John surgery but should make an appearance at some point. The bullpen is impressive with David Hernandez and JJ Putz locking down the back end. The traded for Heath Bell for some reason but hopefully they’ll keep him out of many leverage situations.

Projected Roster

Catcher: Miguel Montero, Wil Nieves
First Base: Paul Goldschimdt, Eric Hinske
Second Base: Aaron Hill
Third Base: Martin Prado, Eric Chavez
Shortstop: Cliff Pennington
Outfield: Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, Cody Ross, Adam Eaton (DL), AJ Pollock
Utility: Willie Bloomquist
Starting Pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin
Relief Pitchers: Matt Reynolds, Joe Paterson, Brad Zeigler, Tony Sipp, Heath Bell, David Hernandez, JJ Putz

San Diego Padres

Notable additions: Jason Marquis (re-signing)

Notable losses: Jason Bartlett (FA)

Andrew was bold enough to predict the Mariners for second place in the AL West, and I’d love to show similar boldness here. But I can’t do it. I like what the Padres have going for the most part but are already without star third baseman Chase Headley for the first month and even after that thumb injuries are no picnic for hitters. Pitching prospect Casey Kelly is out for the year with Tommy John surgery and stud catcher Yasmani Grandal is suspended for the first 50 games. The farm system is loaded but it’s hard to project what kind of impact it’ll make this season. Maybe next year?

When everyone is healthy/not suspended, this looks like a decent offense despite the enormous park they call home. Headley probably had his career year in 2012, but is a very good player nonetheless. Carlos Quentin and Grandal are the only other well-above-average players, but the rest of the pieces fit together nicely to make a well-rounded lineup. Prospect Jed Gyorko has potential to be a good player, but was being asked to play out of position before the Headley injury and I have my doubts he’ll stick at second base. First baseman Yonder Alonso underachieved in his first year in Petco, but I have hopes he’ll figure it out. If not, power-hitting Kyle Blanks could get a shot. Cameron Maybin is also coming off a down year but is an elite defender and still has some nice skills offensively. Wil Venable and Chris Denorfia aren’t household names but should make a great platoon in right field. Cody Ransom and Mark Kotsay are around, so there’s that.

The pitching is meh, not that it matters a whole lot in that park. Edinson Volquez has good stuff but walks way too many hitters. Jason Marquis pitched well after coming over mid-season, but isn’t a top-of-the-rotation guy. Eric Stults and Clayton Richard are just innings-eaters. Tyson Ross isn’t any good. Cory Luebke has upside but is coming off surgery and probably won’t debut until midseason. Youngsters Anthony Bass and Andrew Cashner will almost certainly factor in at some point. Like most every other team in this division, the bullpen is pretty good. Huston Street will close while he’s healthy, and Luke Gregerson is a great set-up man. I love Brad Boxberger as a future closer type.

Projected Roster

Catcher: Yasmani Grandal (suspended), Nick Hundley, John Baker
First Base: Yonder Alonso, Mark Kotsay
Second Base: Jed Gyorko, Logan Forsythe
Shortsop: Everth Cabrera
Third Base: Chase Headley (DL)
Outfield: Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Wil Venable, Chris Denorfia, Kyle Blanks,
Utility: Alexi Amarista
Starting Pitchers: Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, Eric Stults, Jason Marquis, Tyson Ross
Relief Pitchers: Huston Street, Luke Gregerson, Brad Brach, Andrew Cashner, Joe Thatcher, Dale Thayer, Anthony Bass

Colorado Rockies

Notable additions: Jorge De La Rosa (re-signing), Jeff Francis (re-signing), Jon Garland (FA), Yorvit Torrealba (FA), Chris Volstad (FA), Reid Brignac (trade), Manuel Corpas (FA)

Notable losses: Alex White (trade), Matt Reynolds (FA), Josh Roenicke (FA), Jason Giambi (FA)

"Why did I sign that extension?"
Ugh. UGH. This team is a mess. At least they’ll be a mildly entertaining mess, when they play at home anyway. Just about every division has a team that is all but ensured to finish last, the in the NL West the Rockies are that team. Even if one of the teams above them loses their roster in a plane crash I’m not sure the Rockies could catch them.

The offense will occasionally look better than it really is due to the extreme hitting-friendly environment of Coors Field, but beyond superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, there’s not much to like. Catcher Wilin Rosario has tons of power but not much else and is a defensive disaster. Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer are decent players but probably a little overrated. Second baseman Josh Rutledge is interesting and filled in well for Tulowitzki last season, but probably isn’t a star in the making. Todd Helton is still around but he’s 39 and his hitting skills have faded. Most everyone else is either a glorified platoon player or bad. Prospect Nolan Arenado is the future at third base but makeup issues have hurt his stock.

The pitching is…….bad. Francis is kind of their ace, which is kind of embarrassing. De La Rosa is a lottery ticket, and the team is hoping Drew Pomeranz and Jhoulys Chacin can throw strikes and Juan Nicasio won’t get hit by any more line drives. The bullpen has some skilled pitchers with Matt Belisle, Adam Ottavino, and Rex Brothers. Rafael Betancourt closes and is extremely underrated. He’s also never hit a left-handed batter with a pitch, which is amazing.

Projected Roster

Catcher: Wilin Rosario, Yorvit Torrealba
First Base: Todd Helton
Second Base: Josh Rutledge
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
Third Base: Chris Nelson
Outfield: Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer
Utility: Jordan Pacheco, Eric Young, Jr., Jonathan Herrera, Reid Brignac
Starting Pitchers: Jeff Francis, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin, Jon Garland
Relief Pitchers: Adam Ottavino, Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle, Wilton Lopez, Manuel Corpas, Chris Volstad, Rafael Betancourt

Projected Standings

San Fransisco Giants (90-72, first place, NL West Champions)
Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74, second place)
Arizona Diamondbacks (84-78, third place)
San Diego Padres (82-80, fourth place)
Colorado Rockies (65-97, fifth place)

This is one of the deepest divisions in baseball, which makes for good baseball games but lower win totals at the top. Frankly I could see any of the top three teams winning the West, but as of now I like the Giants the most out of the group. Because the top four teams will beat each other up, I only see one team in the division making the playoffs.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Jerry Eldred (@jheldred)

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

2013 MLB Season Preview: AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Key Additions - Josh Hamilton, OF: 5years/$125MM, Sean Burnett, RP: 2years/$8MM, Joe Blanton, SP: 2years/$15MM, Ryan Madson, RP: 1year/$3.5MM.

Key Losses - Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Jordan Walden, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis, LaTroy Hawkins

Key Trades - Acquired SP Jason Vargas from Mariners for 1B Kendrys Morales. Acquired SP Tommy Hanson from Braves for RP Jordan Walden. Acquired P Brandon Sisk from Royals for SP Ervin Santana. Acquired OF Exicardo Cayones and RP Kramer Sneed from Yankees for OF Vernon Wells.

When it comes to the Angels' offense this season, I don't think they will have any issues scoring runs. They were deadly last year, and now they have Josh Hamilton. If healthy, the Angels potentially have four 30+ homerun hitters in their lineup which is absolutely insane. A guy to watch this year that will more than likely be overshadowed due to the main stars of the team is Peter Bourjos. He's slated to take the helm in centerfield full time with the departure of Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells. Bill James of Fangraphs projects Peter at .262, 13 HR, 88 R, 57 RBI, 24 SB, .315 BABIP, and 69.8 wRC with a WAR floating around 3. He will likely bat in the 9-hole this year for the Angels, which could do wonders for his production. If he gets on base on a regular basis this year, he will have no problems stealing bags and scoring runs with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton at the top of that order.

With what the Angels got in pitching is what they lost in pitching. Losing Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana, and Dan Haren put a gaping hole in their rotation. They did go out and acquire physical replacements, but they did not acquire offsets for the production lost. Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas will serve as the number three and for pitchers in the rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Joe Blanton will top out the back end of the rotation. As for the bullpen, it looks very good. Ryan Madson will be starting the year out on the DL as he is still recovering from Tommy John's surgery. Ernesto Frieri will serve as the closer until Madson is healthy. Sean Burnett and Scott Downs are also really good. Garrett Richards could fill in as a starter in the rotation if anyone gets injured.

The spotlight will be all over Mike Trout as he enters his sophomore year in the Bigs. Their rotation is really good all things considered, but the offense will clean up any spills the pitching staff creates.

Projected Roster

Catcher: Chris Iannetta, Chris Snyder
First Base: Albert Pujols
Second Base: Howard Kendrick
Third Base: Alberto Callaspo
Shortstop: Erick Aybar
Outfield: Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Peter Bourjos, Kole Calhoun
Utility: Mark Trumbo, Luis Rodriguez, Andrew Romine
Starting Pitchers: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton
Relief Pitchers: Ryan Madson (DL), Ernesto Frieri, Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs, Garrett Richards, Jerome Williams.

Texas Rangers

Key Additions - Lance Berkman, 1B: 1year/$10MM, Jason Frasor, RP: 1year/$1.5MM, A.J. Pierzynski, C: 1year/$7.5MM, Joakim Soria, RP: 2years/$8MM, Geovany Soto, C: 1year/$2.75MM.

Key Losses - Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Mike Adams, Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Koji Uehara.

Key Trades - Acquired P Josh Lindblom and P Lisalverto Bonilla from Phillies for IF Michael Young.

The Rangers had arguably one of the worst off-seasons of any team in Major League Baseball. They lost a lot of nucleus players that made that team successful. I'm not excited about this team at all this year. It seems like it's just one of those homework assignments from high school that you threw together in study hall before you had to turn it in next hour. Their front office failed to pull the trigger on replacing anyone they lost to free agency.

That being said, they still have a competitive team because of a strong minor league system. Their core of Kinsler, Andrus, Beltre and Cruz is very good. The addition of A.J. Pierzynski at catcher gives them pretty much the same player they lost in Mike Napoli. If Lance Berkman doesn't fall apart, he will give them a nice bat in the middle of the order. The Rangers will give a few prospect outfielders a look to start out the year with Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry in a platoon for center field. Speaking of prospects, Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt are starting out in Triple-A but are major league ready at a moment's notice with any injury to the infield. As noted before, the health of Lance Berkman will determine when those two are called up.

Starting pitching is going to be in the spotlight when the season starts. They have a solid four-man rotation in Harrison, Darvish, Holland, and Ogando. The problem for the Rangers is that all of their options for the fifth man in the rotation are going to start the year of the DL. Martin Perez is out until May, Colby Lewis in out until June, and Neftali Feliz will likely be out way past the All-Star break. The Rangers are likely to go with Nick Tepesch as their 5th starter until Perez is back in May. Aside of Joe Nathan, Jason Frasor, and Robbie Ross, the Rangers bullpen looks very weak. Joakim Soria will be a nice addition when he comes off the DL in May. Lots of questions for the Rangers heading into the season.

Projected Roster

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto
First Base: Mitch Moreland
Second Base: Ian Kinsler
Third Base: Adrian Beltre
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus
Outfield: Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin, David Murphy, Chris Gentry, Julio Borbon
Utility: Jeff Baker, Leury Garcia
Starting Pitchers: Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Martin Perez (DL)
Relief Pitchers: Joe Nathan, Jason Frasor, Robbie Ross, Joakim Soria (DL), Joseph Ortiz, Michael Kirkman, Derek Lowe

Oakland Athletics

Key Additions - Bartolo Colon, SP: 1year/$3MM, Grant Balfour, RP: 1year/$4.5MM.

Key Losses - Jonny Gomes, Cliff Pennington, Stephen Drew, Brandon Inge, George Kottaras, Chris Carter, Yordy Cabrera, Brandon Hicks, A.J. Cole, Graham Godfrey, Brandon McCarthy, Brad Peacock, Sandy Rosario.

Key Trades - Acquired SS Jed Lowrie and RP Fernando Rodriguez for 1B Chris Carter, SP Brad Peacock and C Max Stassi. Acquired C John Jaso in a three-way deal for P A.J. Cole, P Blake Treinen and P Ian Krol. Acquired OF Jefry Marte from Mets for OF Collin Cowgill. Acquired IF Andy Parrino and P Andrew Werner from Padres for P Tyson Ross and IF A.J. Kirby-Jones. Acquired OF Chris Young in a three-way deal for IF Cliff Pennington and IF Yordy Cabrera.

You think the A's were exciting last year? Just wait for what they do this year. Lew Wolff and Billy Beane do an outstanding job out there in Oakland and have done well again this offseason. They lost a lot, but replenished. The Athletics needed to add a middle infielder this offseason after a combination of losing Stephen Drew and having Jemile Weeks having a miserable rookie season. The free agent market for middle infield was very shallow this year, so hey made a trade with the Houston Astros by acquiring Jed Lowrie, whom they wanted badly on previous occasions.

The A's outfield looks really fun. They'll have Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, and Chris Young out there, which is really one of the more underrated outfield groups in all of baseball. They have a very clean and crisp lineup from top to bottom. Scott Sizemore should be back at second base after getting injured early last year. The A's are one of the deepest teams in all of baseball when it comes to infielders. I would actually say only the Rays have more depth. Lowrie can play all four positions, Hiroyuki Nakajima was added this offseason as a short stop option. Sizemore can play second or third. I can't stress enough their amazing depth.

As far as pitching, they always have great young arms who wind up on other teams years after they debut. This group is no different. Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and A.J. Griffin are some of the best young arms in the game and will make or break the A's successes in 2013. Their bullpen is decent, but has holes. They shocked the baseball world last season by winning the AL West. Who knows what they'll do this year.

Projected Roster

Catcher: John Jaso, Derek Norris
First Base: Brandon Moss
Second Base: Eric Sogard
Third Base: Josh Donaldson
Shortstop: Jed Lowrie, Hiroyuki Nakajima (DL)
Outfield: Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Young
Utility: Scott Sizmore, Seth Smith
Starting Pitchers: Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily
Relief Pitchers: Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Pat Neshek, Jerry Blevins, Evan Scribner, Chris Resop

Seattle Mariners

Key Additions - Joe Saunders, SP: 1year/$7MM, Kelly Shoppach, C: 1year/$1.5MM, Raul Ibanez, OF: 1/year/$2.75MM, Oliver Perez, SP: 1year/$1.5MM, Jason Bay, OF: 1year/$1MM.

Key Losses - John Jaso, Miguel Olivo, Mike Carp, Scott Cousins, Shawn Kelley, George Sherrill, Jason Vargas.

Key Trades - Acquired OF Abraham Almonte from Yankees for P Shawn Kelley. Acquired OF Mike Morse in a three-way deal for C John Jaso. Acquired IF Kendrys Morales from Angels for SP Jason Vargas. Acquired UT Robert Andino from Orioles for OF Trayvon Robinson.

I'm going to start out by saying this: Don't sleep on the Mariners this year. If you are a Mariners fan, you have a lot to be excited about this year. I really like the moves they made this offseason minus the Jason Bay signing, but I understand the low risk high reward aspect of it.

The Mariners have lacked consistent power in their lineup for a long time now, and now they have it. Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales are going to provide a combined 60 homeruns this year, maybe even more. In addition to them, the Mariners also bring the developing power strokes of Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, and Michael Saunders into play to form a pretty good lineup. Scoring runs shouldn't be a problem for them. Also to note, I really like Dustin Ackley.

Pitching is another story. Lots of red flags. Lots of questions. Will Felix live up to the contract and stay healthy? I really like Felix. I also like Iwakuma as their number two. Saunders couldn't pitch himself out of a paper bag. Blake Beaven will come along this year. And look out for rookie Brandon Maurer. He will be someone to keep an eye on this year. He could end up being one of the best starters in the AL this year. Their bullpen is a sinking ship. Kameron Loe is part of it. Oliver Perez and Tom Wilhelmsen will shine.

Projected Roster

Catcher: Jesus Montero, Kelly Shoppach
First Base: Justin Smoak
Second Base: Dustin Ackley
Third Base: Kyle Seager
Shortstop: Brendan Ryan
Outfield: Michael Saunders, Michael Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez
Utility: Robert Andino, Kendrys Morales
Starting Pitchers: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Brandon Maurer, Blake Beavan
Relief Pitchers: Tom Wilhelmsen, Carter Capps, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Oliver Perez, Lucas Luetge, Kameron Loe

Houston Astros

Projected Roster

Catcher: Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan
First Base: Brett Wallace, Carlos Pena
Second Base: Jose Altuve
Third Base: Matt Dominguez
Shortstop: Ronny Cedeno
Outfield: Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell, Brandon Barnes, Rick Ankiel, J.D. Martinez
Utility: Marwin Gonzalez
Starting Pitchers: Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Brad Peacock, Erik Bedard
Relief Pitchers: Jose Veras, Wesley Wright, Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, Josh Fields, Rhiner Cruz, Edgar Gonzalez

Projected Standings

Los Angeles Angels (94-68, first place, AL West Champions)
Seattle Mariners (87-75, second place)
Oakland Athletics (86-76, third place)
Texas Rangers (83-79, fourth place)
Houston Astros (55-107, fifth place)

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, @olewr7, and @Stevie2Westside. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Interview with Brewers Prospect Taylor Mangum

Player Profile
Name: Taylor Adams Mangum
Age: 24 (Born 03/04/1989)
Birthplace: Vacaville, CA
School: Utah Valley U
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190 lbs.
Year Drafted: Undrafted (signed in 2012)
Position: Relief pitcher
Throws: R
Bats: R
Minor League Affiliate: Helena Brewers

Andrew: Growing up, when did you start getting into the game of baseball?

Taylor: Ever since I was old enough to pick up a ball ha I can't remember really when I started playing.

Andrew: Name an athlete that stands out to you as someone who inspired you to become an athlete yourself.

Taylor: My father, even though I was never old enough to see him play I've seen articles and heard stories about his competitiveness and drive. I've always wanted to make him proud of my accomplishments by following his example.

Andrew: What were your favorite sports teams growing up?

Taylor: Growing up in Northern California I've always been a big fan of the Giants, 49ers, and Sacramento Kings, hope they can stay in sac town and not Seattle

Andrew: If you had an opportunity to play with or against one baseball player that has either retired from the game or passed away, who would it be?

Taylor: Nolan Ryan, great athlete and example of hard work and dedication, not only on the field but in the weight room, I mean come on the man threw 7 no nos.

Andrew: Who is the best pitcher in baseball today, in your opinion, and why?

Taylor: Justin Verlander, great command and velocity. Crazy that he can start a game 91-93 and finish the 9th throwing 97-100+

Andrew: If it wasn't for your successes in sports, what would be your ideal career outside of baseball?

Taylor: I was studying exercise science in college but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. I know the medical field is a solid occupation, something that will always be needed.

Andrew: If it weren't for baseball, what other sport do you think you would play professionally if you had the opportunity?

Taylor: Football, really miss playin under the lights on a Friday night. Some of the best times of my life.

Andrew: As a pitcher, are you more comfortable as a starter or as a relief pitcher? Talk about the different ways to mentally prepare for either position.

Taylor: I'm more comfortable as a relief pitcher. I love throwing in later innings when the game is on the line. I don't try to do it all myself you have to have confidence in your defense to help you get the job done. I just focus on throwing strikes and keeping the ball down cause I'm naturally a ground ball pitcher.

Andrew: The Brewers recently made a trade with the A's to acquire 3B Stephen Parker who happens to be your Brother in Law. Bias aside, what should Brewer fans expect from him in the next few years?

Taylor: Expect him to get the job done. He's the type of guy that will let his play do the talking. He leads more by example than anything else. He was limited In his playing time with the A's triple a team last year but when he's playing on a day to day basis he's as good as anyone. He's got a great glove and bat.

Andrew: Talk about being in the MLB Draft. Obviously it must have been disappointing to not get drafted, but just talk about the whole experience.

Taylor: Yea I was disappointed I didn't get picked up but all I was looking for was an opportunity and I got it. Not many teams were looking for a 23 yr old relief pitcher that took two years off to serve an LDS mission. A few days after the draft on a Saturday night I got the call, signed, and was on a plane to AZ the next day. It's always a blessing to be doing something you love, not many people can say that.

Andrew: Have you made any trips to Miller Park yet? If so, how did it feel knowing that could be you one day on there on the field?

Taylor: I haven't but my brother has. I know he's hoping to go back so I'm trying to give him a reason to go sooner than later ha. I have a great fan club from four older brothers, my parents, and most importantly my wife Michelle.

Andrew: In your opinion, who is the greatest baseball player of all time?

Taylor: Well being a bit biased towards pitchers I'll say Mo Rivera. He's been so consistent throughout his career and been a key part in the Yankees success. To dominate on the mound the way he has with really only one pitch has been absolutely incredible. He's the first that came to mind but I know there's many that can contend for the #1 spot.

Andrew: Overall, what are your early perceptions of the Milwaukee Brewers organization?

Taylor: Just that, organized. They run things in a very structured way. Look at the moves we've made this spring. No doubt we're trying to win not only a division title but contend for a championship.

Andrew: Chipotle or Qdoba?

Taylor: Chipotle

Andrew: Steroids in baseball is a serious subject right now. Talk about your feelings about Performance Enhancing Drugs in baseball.

Taylor: I feel they've ruined baseball. I would never want anyone to think back on my career and see me as a guy who cheated and cut corners. Athletes should have the drive to develop their talents naturally.

Andrew: Bottom of the 9th, two outs. Runner on third. Who is the last person in baseball today you would not want to pitch to?

Taylor: Whoever is swingin the hottest bat at the time ha but I'd have to say Miguel Cabrera.....triple crown winner for a reason.

Andrew: What is your main goal you have set for yourself going into the 2013 season with the Brewers?

Taylor: Make a full season roster prior to the draft and finish in Brevard or higher.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, @olewr7, and @Stevie2Westside. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Packers Nation, Take a Deep Breath

This offseason has gone exactly as Ted Thompson had planned.  Maybe not to the t, but pretty close.  Draft and develop.  Draft and develop.  No matter how many times TT comes out and says this, Packers fans erupt in madness when NFL Free Agency opens every offseason.  The fans are frustrated by the lack of free agents signed by the Packers and letting some of their own players get away for modest prices.  He let Charles Woodson go?!  He wouldn’t pay Greg Jennings?!  Fans were enraged, calling for his head.  Let’s take a step back and look at what TT HAS done for the Packers.

He does not overspend on players.  The NFL salary cap is a delicate issue and TT knows how to play with it.  He let Charles Woodson walk because as valuable as Woodson is, he is not worth the $10 million cap hit.  So many teams go out into free agency to fill needs and end up over paying (Hello, Colts and Erik Walden).  In the long run, the Packers are much better off, paying their own players who perform, which is exactly what TT does.  Aaron Rodgers is due the largest contract in NFL history and contracts for Matthews and Raji are not far behind.  TT is trying to put together as much cap space as possible for players he KNOWS will contribute.

You have no idea who this is.
He knows how to draft.  Every GM has a few misses in the draft, but let’s focus on the positives for a minute.  Aaron Rodgers (best pick yet) Greg Jennings, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, Casey Heyward, Bryan Bulaga, James Starks, BJ Raji, Clay Matthews, TJ Lang, Brad Jones, Josh Sitton, Desmond Bishop, Mason Crosby, AJ Hawk, Daryn Colledge, Nick Collins.  All big impact players and he drafted countless other role players that fit well in the Packers scheme. Don’t forget about all of the undrafted rookies he signs that turn into talents such as Frank Zombo, Sam Shields, Don Barclay, Dezman Moses, to name a few.  The man flat out drafts well and this is why the Packers have been so good since he took over in 2005.

He puts a winning team on the field.  TT has a knack for finding talent and putting the team possible out there to represent the green and gold.  Since 2005 (the year TT took over GM) the Packers are 78-50, tied for 5th best in the NFL.  Now, if 2005 is taken out (team was 4-12) because that wasn’t really TT’s team on the field and start in 2006, the Packers are 74-38, second to only the New England Patriots.  Throw in a Super Bowl victory, three division titles and five playoff appearances in TT’s tenure, Packers fans don’t have much to complain about.

Packers fans need to take a deep breath and have some faith.  TT knows what he is doing.  Barring a major injury, the Packers should win the NFC North again and be in the playoffs.  All Packers fans should be ecstatic that TT is their GM.  It could be a lot worse, since 2006, the St. Louis Rams are 30-81-1. The Packers don’t sign free agents, get used to it! 

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Steve Perhach (@Stevie2Westside)

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, @olewr7, and @Stevie2Westside. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Brewers Sign Kyle Lohse

I woke up this morning (or afternoon, depending on if you view noon as “morning”) to the news that the Brewers signed starting pitcher and former Cardinal Kyle Lohse. I hoped I was dreaming, but I knew I really wasn’t. What I had feared for months had come true - with all the decent starting pitchers on the market, the Brewers would settle on the wrong one. Not even 24 hours ago, it seemed set that the Brewers would go into the 2013 season with a youth movement of sorts in the pitching staff, viewing 2013 as a minor rebuilding year. Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, Chris Narveson, and prospect Wily Peralta were set to be the rotation, at least while Mark Rogers built up his arm strength on the DL. Now.....Peralta is likely heading back to the minors for a 34-year old pitcher who’s not good.

This guy.
To the casual fan, this seems like a reasonable deal. Lohse is coming off a career year in St. Louis where he put up a 16-3 record in an impressive 211 innings with a shiny 2.86 ERA. He rarely walked hitters or gave up home runs. On the surface, a 3-year, $33 million-dollar deal for such a pitcher seems like a steal. But there’s so much more than what meets the eye. Let me explain.

As I mentioned earlier, Lohse pitched for the Cardinals not only last year, but for the last five seasons. Three of those years were solid or good, two of those seasons were awful. Prior to his Cardinals career, he was pretty much just awful. The Cardinals have a history of finding value in scrap-heap pitchers (Chris Carpenter, Todd Wellemeyer, Joel Piniero, Braden Looper, etc.) and Lohse was no different. But I’m not willing to say he’s just a new pitcher and will continue his success in Milwaukee.

First, he’s 34. Signing old pitchers is not good business, as Brewers fans surely should be aware of. Second, he’s pitched the last few seasons in a pitcher-friendly ballpark that suppresses home runs. That last part is important because he’s a flyball pitcher that doesn’t strike many hitters out. Miller Park is very homer-friendly and as a result more of those fly balls that Lohse induces are likely heading over the fence. Third, advanced stats suggest that Lohse got a little lucky the last two years, with batted balls turning into outs at a higher-than-normal rate as well as a high number of baserunners stranded. While it’s possible he has some kind of skill in those areas that we don’t know about, if those numbers regress to the mean, you’re looking at a very ordinary pitcher at best. Even if he outperforms his peripherals, he’s stuck in a park that doesn’t match his skills.

The likelihood of Lohse outperforming Peralta (who’s waaaaay cheaper) this season seems low, and the gained service time from Peralta starting in the minors pales to the ultimate price the Brewers are paying. Not only is it a high monetary price tag, but the Brewers have to give up their first round pick to sign Lohse (meaning the rival Cardinals get an extra pick), since he’s a type-A free agent. That is a heavy cost for a team with a weak farm system, especially one that’s only on the periphery of a playoff race, not entrenched in it. The knee-jerk reaction may be to blame General Manager Doug Melvin, but it’s entirely likely he had no part in this. Owner Mark Attanasio had been in contact with Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, and the possibility loomed that Attanasio would bypass Melvin (who didn’t want to give up the draft pick) to sign Lohse. This especially seems odd considering Attanasio just signed Melvin to an extension last year, and now Mark is basically undermining his General Manager to sign a player who’s not worth the price they’re paying. But Attanasio values winning at all costs, even though I doubt Lohse will contribute the wins the Brewers require of him.

All in all, Lohse will probably be okay, an average starter that eats innings but can’t put them over the top. Which is fine for most teams, but not for a team like the Brewers that’s trying to limit payroll and develop young pitchers. It’s another frustrating move from an increasingly frustrating organization. At least Melvin can’t be fired if this move goes badly....I hope.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Jerry Eldred (@jheldred)

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Packers 7 Round Mock Draft 4.0

Here it is. The last last one. The Packers 7 Round Mock Draft 4.0. The Combine is over. Pro Days are wrapping up. Free agency is pretty much over and as many expected, the Packers laid low during the whole process. If you would like to catch up on the previous three mock drafts I've done for the Packers, feel free to click the following links.

Packers Mock Draft 1.0
Packers Mock Draft 2.0

Packers Mock Draft 3.0

Round 1 Pick 26: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M - It wouldn't hurt the Packers to look for defensive line help. Jerel Worthy had knee surgery a month ago, Raji was a little banged up last year, and C.J. Wilson needs someone to compliment him better. The first round is going to be a tough decision for the Packers because the pick is so late and the exact viable needs the Packers are looking to draft will more than likely going to be gone. For example, the Packers would love to get their hands on D.J. Fluker (OT), Chance Warmack (OG), or Bjoern Werner (DE) but it is very unlikely the three of them make it out of the Top 20. So, this pick is essentially more of what the Packers will have to settle for of what's left unless they value someone who could go early second round and want to gamble a bit. (See next pick for example.) Damontre Moore is a defensive end out of Texas A&M. The Packers need to improve on pass rushing and Moore is the guy for that job. Moore has the potential to rank among the league's top pass rushers as he can play both the 4-3 defensive end or as a stand-up pass rusher out of the 3-4. He also obtains a very good spin move, allowing him to go inside or outside to prevent a run game.
(Previous Pick: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama)

Round 2 Pick 55: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama - I originally had Lacy going first round for the Packers, but it sounds like Lacy could fall to the second round and still be available for the Packers to draft as he did not participate at the Combine, which results in his stock to go down. James Starks has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for a full season. Alex Green has done nothing with the opportunities sent his way. Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant will likely be gone after this offseason. Although DuJuan Harris was impressive down the stretch in his few games where he shined, I'm not sure if he is ready to take on a full starting workload. McCarthy said in a recent interview that Harris could be the starter, but it's his spot to earn in training camp. Still, the Packers may address the running back position early in the 2013 NFL Draft. Eddie Lacy heading into the NFL Combine has been compared to a few running backs that are in the NFL now, but the two I keep hearing is Frank Gore and Michael Bush. Lacy values the potential of what Green Bay could offer him and his career. He was quoted saying this at the Combine:

“I feel as though they wouldn’t just be able to spread the field out,” said Lacy on the prospect of joining the Packers. “They’d have to actually have to defend the run as well. If Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback, you’re not going to put nine guys in the box. So it’ll kind of balance out.”
Eddie Lacy did not work out at the Combine due to a small hamstring tear but will partake in Alabama's Pro Day. If his injury doesn't seem to be a major concern, I wouldn't mind Green Bay drafting him as the first running back in the 2013 draft, especially if free agency isn't an option for Ted Thompson (which it clearly wasn't). The Packers still could take Lacy first round if they want to gamble a bit, but I think at this point Lacy could be an option second round.
(Previous Pick: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor)

Round 3 Pick 88: Marquise Goodwin, WR/KR, Texas - I think we all know the reasoning for this pick. Greg Jennings is with the Vikings. In addition, Donald Driver announced his retirement from the NFL and made it official February 6th, 2013. It looks like the Packers will need to look to add a wide receiver in the draft. The Packers have made it clear that Randall Cobb will not be returning kicks next year. Marquise Goodwin, a former track athlete, could be our new kick returner as well as a wideout and deep threat to add to Aaron Rodgers' arsenal. He has great speed, which was evident at the NFL Combine as he ran a 4.27 40. He also showed he had great hands as he caught nearly every pass thrown his way during his senior season as well as at the Combine. The Packers are likely to address the WR hole early, and Goodwin would be a good pick here for Green Bay.
(Previous Pick: David Quessenberry, G/C/OT, San Jose State)

Round 4 Pick 119: Oday Aboushi, G/OT, Virginia - The Packers had major problems at the offensive liveafter letting Scott Wells walk away, so they'll have to address that area in the draft. Evan Dietrich-Smith, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has been in talks with the Packers to sign long tern with the Packers and be the center for out future. Even if EDS signs, we will still need some sort of depth at center in case the inevitable occurs, an injury. The Packers need to beef up the tackle position this offseason as well. I'm not a big fan of Marshall Newhouse nor do I see him as a viable option at left tackle going into next season. There have been rumblings this offseason that the Packers are considering moving Brian Bulaga over to left tackle next season. At 6-5⅜, 308 lbs, Oday Aboushi can play both guard and tackle on the offensive line, so that should appeal to Ted Thompson. He can play left or right tackle. He plays very aggressive and physical. He is exactly what Green Bay needs for an offensive lineman. Just a quick note to finish...if David Quessenberry (G/C/OT) somehow makes it through the third round and is still available for this pick for Green Bay, expect the Packers to pounce on the San Jose State utility offensive lineman.
(Previous Pick: Cornelius Washington, DE/OLB, Georgia)

Round 5 Pick 152: David Bass, DE/OLB, Missouri Western - Hopefully I'm not the only one who thought Erik Walden's 4 year/16MM contract with the Colts was absolutely hilarious. He was a free agent and will likely be one of the biggest busts of this year's offseason. (Did the Colts even watch the game with Green Bay vs. San Fransisco?) With his departure, there would be a void at the line backer position. A.J Hawk's contract was restructured (cut in half) because of his rather high salary. Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry will be coming back from injury. Brad Jones is in talks with the Titans. There are a lot of questions surrounding the linebackers on the Packers and they need answers. In the fifth round, David Bass would be a great pick and a possible steal. He would be the pass rushing outside linebacker that the Packers so desperately need to compliment Clay Matthews. Bass has excellent college career numbers with 39.5 sacks and 56 tackles for loss as a four-year starter.
(Previous Pick: Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia)

Round 5 Pick 167 (Compensatory): Luke Marquardt, OT, Azusa Pacific - (See: Oday Aboushi above.) Note: I originally had Marquardt as a possible undrafted free agent for 3.0. Since then, Luke's draft stock has skyrocketed. I wouldn't be surprised if he was taken off the board in the fourth round, to be honest. He's 6-foot-8 inches tall and three-hundred fifteen pounds. The Packers need some serious upgrades at the line if they want their soon to be hundred million dollar quarterback healthy. The Packers get this extra pick in the fifth round for the departure of quarterback Matt Flynn last season. Because of Flynn's playing time with the Seahawks last year, the Packers were only rewarded with a fifth round pick rather than the expected fourth round. Thanks, Russell.
(Previous Pick: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida)

Round 6 Pick 193: Earl Wolff, S, N.C. State - The Packers have had a void in the defensive back field since losing Nick Collins a few years back. Charles Woodson was cut by the Packers a few weeks ago. They will need to address this in the draft at some point, and I don't have a problem with them doing it late. The Packers should look for a versatile player who could play either corner or safety, but preferably safety to add depth to Jennings, Burnett, and McMillian. Wolff is a guy that could mesh well right away with Green Bay, as long as our pass rush improves significantly next year. He's got great arm strength and has great back pedal ability. He had 340 tackles in his Sophomore thru Senior seasons at North Carolina State. He's great when it comes to run defense. If he works on his change in directions/cuts, he'll be a great snag late in the draft.
(Previous Pick: Zeke Motta, S, Notre Dame)

Round 7 Pick 232: Michael Williams, TE, Alabama - In 3.0 I had Green Bay taking a tight end way earlier in the draft. Fourth round to be exact. But, since Greg Jennings is gone, it seems as though Jermichael Finley is now going to be staying with the Packers instead of being cut like it was originally expected. The Packers still took a hit in the tight end depth chart as they lost Tom Crabtree to free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Crabtree was mostly used primarily for blocking as well as on special teams. Crabtree's shining moment as a Packer was his touchdown catch on that trick 4th and 26 fake field goal play last season. Michael Williams is a much better blocker than Crabtree and could be used as a goal line option for Rodgers because of his size and great hands. This isn't necessarily are needed pick in this spot, but it will be something Green Bay will consider with their last pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.
(Previous Pick: Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida)

Undrafted Free Agent Watch 

Mike Shanahan, WR/TE, Pittsburgh - Ted Thompson loves himself some versatile players and Shanahan is exactly that. He's 6-foot-4 tall which gives him size. He also offers strength and very reliable hands. He was recruited to Pittsburgh to be a basketball player, but turned it down to play football. The defense he picked up while playing basketball shows in his strength and blocking in football.

Travis Long, DE/OLB, Washington State - This move is to simply add depth to our linebackers as we lost Erik Walden and could potentially lose Brad Jones as well. Plus, we really lacked depth at linebacker last season as it seemed they are were injured at some point during the season.

Braden Wilson, FB, Kansas State - This won't be a popular choice, but it may be time to start looking at replacing John Kuhn. He's owed $2.3 million in the final year of his deal in 2013, so it is quite possible the Packers could start looking for his potential replacement.

Justice Cunningham, TE, South Carolina - This simply because we may or may not take a tight end in the draft. If we don't, Justice Cunningham would serve the purpose of what we lost in Tom Crabtree.

Jordan Rodgers, QB, Vanderbilt - Nostalgia purposes only here. But, it would be pretty cool. Packers need some comfort in a back up quarter back if Rodgers were to go down ever. Graham Harrell hasn't showed me much of anything that would hint he could step up to the plate. Jordan, Aaron's brother, could provide that cushion. If not, a veteran free agent signing or trade may be in order.

Dan Conroy, K, Michigan State - "Mason is our guy." I don't know about you all, but I was really sick of hearing that from Mike McCarthy last season. That fact that it was a weekly quote all season long shows there are questions at our kicker position, which is one of the more highly important and vital positions on the football team. The Packers could sign Conroy as someone to get Mason Crosby focused in training camp after the forgettable season Crosby had in 2012. Conroy has the strength and the accuracy to give Mason Crosby a good potential battle in training camp.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

March Madness Preview: Wisconsin Badgers

Don’t let anyone convince you the NCAA tournament selection committee lacks a sense of humor. After two(more) statement wins against top 10 teams Michigan and Indiana and falling just short against a third top ten win against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game the Badgers earned a 5 seed in the West Region of the 2013 NCAA tournament. The Badgers will play Ole Miss at 11:40am on Friday March 22. Should they win, a potential 2nd round (technically 3rd round I guess, thanks NCAA marketing geniuses) matchup with Kansa State would mark the third time in six season the Badgers would play Kansas St in their second game of the tournament, although this time as a pseudo home game for K State in Kansas City.

As a preview for what’s to come, the following breakdown will focus on what each player can do best to help the team win (Popeye’s spinach) and what aspect may trip them up (Achilles heel)


Jared Berggren
– Controlling the paint. Jared is a big part of the Badgers championship caliber defense. The school record holder in blocks, his ability to block and affect shots forces opposing teams to frequently settle for jump shots

– Foul trouble. A result of challenging nearly every shot in the paint, Bergs has a tendency to pick up fouls in quick succession and find time on the bench. Although Frank Kaminsky has been effective off the bench, he is not nearly the post defender Berggren is.

Ryan Evans
– Mid range jump shot. Evans mid-range jumper is so effective he now shoots them as free throws(only half joking). A certain QB playing in Green Bay would appreciate Evans game.

– Doing too much. Badgers have run into prolonged offensive droughts. As a senior Evans has shown the willingness to shoot the team out of their slump which occasionally leads to forced shots out of his comfort zone.

Mike Bruesewitz
– Hustle. Cliché? Yeah, but there’s a reason that moniker has stuck. Bruiser has made his reputation on snagging offensive rebounds and diving for loose balls. Although his hair style is probably a close second.
– Foul trouble. Similar to Berggren challenging shots, Bruesewitz will challenge opponents on the defensive end. He’s always a couple of block vs. charge calls away from being in trouble.

Ben Brust

– Scoring. Brust is the prototypical streaky shooter. When he’s on, he can hit from anywhere . Lately Brust has added a nice component to his game in curling around high screens and attacking the hoop.


– Lengthy defenders. At 6-1 Brust is on the smaller side for shooting guards. Against teams with taller, longer guards (Florida, Michigan State, Ohio State) Brust has struggled at times to find space getting off his shot. 

Traevon Jackson

– Big shot. Trae has shown he knack for taking and making game winning/tying shots. No team makes a deep run into the NCAA tournament without winning a close game; Jackson gives the Badgers a proven go to option at the end of games.

– Focus. Once or twice a game Jackson seems to throw a lazy pass across the top of the key and/or dribbles with no real purpose resulting in a turnover. Jackson must improve focus on ball security throughout the game.


Sam Dekker

– Instant offense. As evident during his 7 points in 1 minute against Indiana in the Big Ten tournament semifinal game, Dekker has the potential to explode on offense and score in a variety of ways. His outside shot has struggled lately(3-17 over last 5 games) but Dekker has still attacked  the rim attempting the most free throws on the team over the same stretch.

– Defense. Still adjusting to contribute Big Ten caliper defense, Dekker still has lapses defending ball screens and rotating on help defense. This probably cost Dekker 6th man of the year honors in the Big Ten.

George Marshall

– 3 point shooting. Marshall is 3rd on the team in 3pt shooting percentage. Rest assured his quick trigger off the bench will be needed at some point during the tournament if the Badgers hope to advance into the later rounds.

– Defense. As is the case for Dekker, Marshall’s D has not been as good as the starters.

 Frank Kaminsky

– Depth. Having a healthy Frank Kaminsky changes the Badgers significantly. He provides added front court depth should Berg, Bruiser or Evans experience foul trouble. It’s no surprise the Badgers had a mini slump mid-season (L @ Iowa, L v. Mich St. and L @ Ohio St.) when Frank was out with an eye injury.

– Defense. See Dekker and Marshall.

Bench Mob

– Unless freshman Zak Showalter gets some late game PT and throws down one of the put back offense rebound dunks he’s become known for in practice, the Bench Mob (lead by seniors Dan Fahey and JD Wise) will have to practice insane reactions/stay back after things like this.

Prediction time

Bo Ryan has made the NCAA tournament in each of the twelve seasons as head coach of the Badgers. In the previous 11 he has failed to make it out of the first round only once (in 2006 the #9 Badgers lost to #8 Arizona). Although Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson (20.0 points per game) fits the mold of taller, athletic guards  who have given the Badgers trouble this year (particularly DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall of Penn State) as well as historically in the NCAA tournament (Stephan Curry/Davidson in 2008) I expect the Badgers will hold Henderson to one of his lower outputs of the season. Badgers rank 11th in the country in 3-point field goal defense and their proven ability to contest all of Henderson’s shots will be the difference in this game.

A potential 2nd round match-up against Kansas State led by familiar face Bruce Weber former coach at Illinois. Bo Ryan owns a 12-9 record against Weber dating back to Weber’s time as head coach in Illinois. Angel Rodriguez and Rodney McGruder are the type of slashing guards that could give the Badgers trouble. However the Wildcats don’t really have anyone capable of handling Ryan Evans in the post, who has done a fine job lately determining when to take bigger, slower defenders off the dribble and posting up against smaller, slighter defenders.

Do not be fooled though, this Badger team has shown a penchant for long scoring droughts this season and has had to be bailed out by championship level defense. Deficiencies of this nature often reappear in the tournament when the stakes are higher. Wisconsin must be careful to avoid offensive deficient stretches to prevent an early departure.

Best Case Scenario - Riding the momentum of the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin advances to their third consecutive Sweet Sixteen and sneak past an overrated Gonzaga team before bowing out to Ohio State in the regional final.

Worst Case Scenario – hot shooting Marshall Henderson pushes Wisconsin to the brink in round one, but the Badgers prevail on a last second shot. In round two Angel Rodriguez and Rodney McGruder run roughshod and cold shooting sends the Badgers back to Madison

The Badgers have already demonstrated their love of dancing this season, here’s hoping it continues to April.


Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Neal Olson (

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Madness Breakdown: West Region

Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk looks to continue to make school history.
Top Seeds

1 – Gonzaga
2 – Ohio State
3 – New Mexico
4 – Kansas State

The Rest

5 – Wisconsin
6 – Arizona
7 – Notre Dame
8 – Pittsburgh
9 – Wichita State
10 – Iowa State
11 – Belmont
12 – Ole Miss
13 – Boise State/LaSalle
14 – Harvard
15 – Iona
16 – Southern

No longer a Cinderella, Gonzaga earned the school’s first #1 seed in the NCAA tournament to match their first #1 ranking in both the AP and coaches polls. The Zags cruised to the West Coast Conference title behind junior F and All American candidate Kelly Olynyk. As always for non BCS conference teams the question will be whether the Zags will be able to handle the jump in quality opponents in the tournament. Gonzaga leads the country in scoring margin, bolstered in large part to outscoring conference opponents by an average of 19.5 points per game.

Ohio State has recovered from a mid-season slump to reel off eight straight wins and enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. Guard Aaron Craft is the best on ball defender in the nation, but also excels and sneaking into passing lanes and disrupting things off the ball. Forward DeShaun Thomas led the Big Ten in scoring during the season as well as field goal attempts and is a fearless scorer willing and capable to shoot from anywhere on the court.

New Mexico is another team that has relied on an easier conference schedule and rewarded with a top four seed, the Lobos have never made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament under Steve Alford despite a 3 seed in 2010 and a 5 seed in 2012. New Mexico is led by guards Kendall Williams and Tony Snell, both averaging over 12 points per game. Don’t be surprised if the Lobos are upset by Arizona in round two.

Bruce Weber returns to the NCAA tournament in his first year as coach of the Kansas State Wildcats. Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez are an outstanding back-court duo that constantly attack opposing defenses. Wildcats also benefit from playing the first weekend of games close to home in the Kansas City pod(or whatever they’re called these days). An intriguing second round game against Wisconsin could lead to the third time those schools have played in the same round in six season (2008 and 2011).

Don’t sleep on Arizona. The Wildcats are another example of a talented team battling consistent performance during the course of the conference slate.  All of Arizona’s losses have been inter-conference games and they have quality wins of Florida, Miami and San Diego St. Make no mistake, advancing in the tournament by what essentially equates to four day mini tournaments is a far cry from grinding out conference games in January and February. Arizona has the talent and the coach to advance past the Sweet Sixteen.

The Picks

Sweet Sixteen: Wisconsin over Gonzaga, Ohio State over Arizona

Elite Eight: Ohio State over Wisconsin

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Neal Olson (

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

March Madness Breakdown: East Region

Cody Zeller leads a complete, yet inconsistent Hoosier team.
Top Seeds

1 – Indiana
2 – Miami
 3 – Marquette
 4 – Syracuse

The Rest

5 – UNLV
6 – Butler
7 – Illinois
8 – NC State
9 – Temple
10 – Colorado
11 –Bucknell
12 – Temple
13 – Montana
14 – Davidson
15 – Pacific
16 – Long Island University -Brooklyn/James Madison University

All the preseason #1 Hoosiers had to do was win the Big Ten conference tournament and they had the #1 overall tournament seed and a spot in the Midwest Region hosted in Indianapolis. Indiana has spent over half the season(10 out of 19 weeks) ranked #1 in the country. Behind leading scorer sophomore F Cody Zeller the Hoosiers are a deep and talented team.  Junior guard Victor Oladipo is as complete a player in college basketball and can affect the game equally on the offensive and defensive end. Indiana faces a potentially difficult game in the 2nd round against NC State who has the talent to match the Hoosiers but have lacked consistent effort this year.

Miami burst onto the college hoops scene after a dominating performance against then #1 Duke in January. Led by do everything guard Shane Larkin Miami strikes with a three guard lineup but also has 6’11” big man Kenny Kadji. Hurricanes are led by head coach Jim Larranaga who took George Mason to the Final Four in 2006 at the same regional site in Washington DC.

Marquette tied for first place in the Big East regular season standings and has been playing well lately led by guard Vander Blue. The Golden Eagles have back to back Sweet Sixteen appearances under head coach Buzz Williams, but in order to make it three in row they will likely need to get past Butler a team that beat them in the regular season in November.

Syracuse ended the regular season winning only three of their last eight, but then rolled off three victories in a row and held a 16 point lead on Louisville in the second half of the Big East tournament championship game. ‘Cuse primarily deploy a 2-3 zone defensively and do a terrific job of using their length to diminish shooting lanes. The zone occasionally results in the Orange getting bounced early by a hot shooting team from outside (#13 Vermont-2005, #12 Texas A&M-2006 and #11 Marquette –2011)

Don’t sleep on NC State. A preseason top 10 team with reason, the Wolfpack have three NBA caliber players in juniors F CJ Leslie, G Lorenzo Brown and freshman G Rodney Purvis. Look for NC State to handle Temple in round one and push Indiana to the brink in round two. Plus we might get to see another Braveheart reenactment, which is always a plus.

The Picks

Sweet Sixteen: Indiana over UNLV and Miami over Marquette

Elite Eight: Indiana over Miami

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Neal Olson (

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Monday, March 18, 2013

March Madness Breakdown: South Region

Shabazz Muhammad will seal a trip to the NBA in the tournament
Top Seeds

1 - Kansas
2 - Georgetown
3 - Florida
4 - Michigan

The Rest

5 - Virginia Commonwealth
6 - UCLA
7 - San Diego State
8 - North Carolina
9 - Villanova
10 - Oklahoma
11 - Minnesota
12 - Arkansas
13 - South Dakota State
14 - Northwestern State
15 - Florida Gulf Coast
16 - LIU Brooklyn/James Madison

The South region is full of enigmatic teams. Kansas won their 9th consecutive Big 12 conference title but not without dropping three games in a row to Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma marking the first time since 2005-2006 Kansas had lost three games in a row. As well as a 23 point loss to NIT bound Baylor. However, freshman guard Ben McLemore is a dynamic scorer(and fantastic dancer) and in contention for the #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.  Talent almost always trumps everything else in the tournament and Kansas has that in spades.

Georgetown has been the most consistent of the top four teams but has a few ugly losses on the season including a 28 point home loss to Pittsburgh and losing to a South Florida team that had three wins in the Big East. Another defensive stalwart the Hoyas rank 9th in the country in points allowed per game. Otto Porter Jr. adds an offensive flare that will create matchup issues for anyone. Now that teams are keying on his scoring prowess, Porter has upped his assist total to nearly 4 assists per game over the last six games compared to 2.5 assists per game on the year.

Florida has looked dominate at times with average scoring margin second in the NCAA at almost 18 points per game. The problem for the Gators has been close games. Only their road loss at Arkansas was more than a two score game under the last minute of the game and the Gators lost all six contests. Inevitably Florida will have to survive a close game if it hopes to advance to the fourth Final Four under Billy Donovan. Fortunately the Gators have the talent to dominate and extend leads so they won’t find themselves in any close games.

Michigan is another team that has not lost outside of conference play in the rugged Big Ten. However one of those losses was a mind boggling lost at Penn State which has only one other conference win. Michigan’s roster boosts at least four NBA caliper players led by National Player of the Year candidate guard Trey Burke. Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr are gunners and can score from anywhere on the floor and powerful freshman Mitch McGary leads the team in rebounding. The Wolverines struggle against stout defensive teams, four of their six losses have come against teams at the top scoring defenses in the country (Wisconsin(twice), Ohio St. and Michigan St.)

Don’t sleep on the Minnesota v. UCLA winner. Both teams fall into the enigmatic designation prevalent by the top seeds in the region. Minnesota has several quality wins(Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan St.) along with several bad losses(Nebraska, Northwestern,Purdue) but has the talent to compete with any team if they stay focused. Similar sentiments for UCLA with three wins against Arizona, but also lost to USC and Cal Poly. UCLA also has a talented roster with potential NBA players Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson(both freshman).

The Picks

Sweet Sixteen: Michigan over Kansas, Florida over Georgetown

Elite Eight: Florida over Michigan

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Neal Olson (

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 @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @B_Toom_3, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)