Friday, April 26, 2013

Announcement - "Bunt to Lose" Podcast

A little back story on this. On Opening Day, Curt Hogg (@YouAStupidHogg) of the Reviewing the Brew blog and I met up with Alec Dopp (@AlecDopp) before the game got underway. We talked about the usual: baseball, baseball, crabby Tom, prospects, our blogs etc. In closing our meeting, Alec had the idea of the trio of us start a podcast to talk Brewers baseball. We came to a consensus that this was a really great idea. We later discussed things further on Facebook blah blah blah. Here we are.

This podcast will likely be a 2 times a week show running between 20-30 minutes. We will post the feed of the show via our blogs, but it will be easiest to find it once it gets approved and hosted on iTunes. The name of it will be "Bunt to Lose - A Milwaukee Brewers Podcast" featuring Curt Hogg, Alec Dopp, and myself Andrew Vrchota.

Stay tuned for more details as I has them for you. Thanks for all of the reads, interactions on Twitter, and just overall support of this blog. Its come a long way since 2008, and its not done growing yet!

UPDATE (5/2): I spoke with a good friend of mine and the podcast now has a hosting site. In the coming days, you will be able to find the podcast on which is run by Dylan Richardson. It will also be available on iTunes. The three of us are still working out a day where it's most convenient for us to record. Stay tuned.

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, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @olewr7, and @Stevie2Westside. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Green Bay Packers 2013 NFL Draft Results

Day 1: Round 1, Pick 26: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA - I really love this pick. Ted Thompson did something that he usually doesn't do, and that's draft top needs vs. top available talent. I've been high on Datone Jones since I began my research on this year's draft. I didn't include him in any of my mock drafts because I figured Ted would pass. Boy am I glad I was wrong. Back in March I tweeted Jones would be a lock for Green Bay.

Granted we didn't get Jackson, the Packers saw no desire or need in taking a running back in the offseason or first round. Again, Ted drafting by need is truly a great thing. Makes me look forward to the upcoming rounds.

I said before the draft that I expected the Packers to select a defensive lineman, as they kicked the tires on Chris Canty and Steve McLendon in the offseason. Since Cullen Jenkins left, there has been problems with our pass rush from the linemen. Jones has the potential to be an instant game changer and huge play-maker for the Packers.

Everyone for the most part wanted Ted to trade down, which seemed logical with Geno Smith, Manti Te'o, and Eddie Lacy all falling in the draft. The Packers will likely still trade at some point. My guess is he'll trade the 2nd round pick for a 3rd and 5th round pick. 

Day 2: Round 2, Pick 55: (TRADED to 49ERS for their 61ST and 173RD PICKS)

Day 2: Round 2, Pick 61 (from 49ers): Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama - The Packers traded their 55th overall pick to the 49ers for their 61st pick and 173rd pick (6th round).

Well, this kind of fell into Ted's lap. Lacy had interest in joining Green Bay back at the Combine. I don't mind this pick. It makes sense. I was high on Lacy for a while. Listing him as our number one pick in one mock draft, and number two pick in another. Turns out, he did fall just like many suspected.

Lacy is a great runner who will be an instant number one running back in our system. He is also a great blocker, something the Packers needed in a runner for a while now. Packers executives aren't too concerned about his injuries. Lacy HAS to stay healthy for this pick to be acceptable. Good talent still to come in the third round for offensive line.

Day 2: Round 3, Pick 88: (TRADED to 49ERS for their 93RD and 216TH PICKS)

Day 2: Round 3, Pick 93 (from 49ers): (TRADED to DOLPHINS for their 109TH (4th round), 146 (5th round), 224 (7th round)

Day 2 Recap

We drafted Eddie Lacy. I've opened up to this pick and I'm going to let it run it's course. We needed a running back. Bottom line.

I liked that we were able to trade aggressively and get a total of ten picks to finish out the Draft tomorrow. We have two 4th round, three 5th round, two 6th round, and three 7th round picks. Busy day tomorrow for the Packers. The focus will be mainly on offensive and defensive line, linebacker, and safety. With those extra picks, the Packers could now take a wide receiver, a tight end, or even a kicker if need be. Should be fun to watch.

Only one pick fell off the board that I really liked. Safety J.J. Wilcox went to the Cowboys in the 3rd round. The Packers were really high on him. But, oh well. That's why you shouldn't get too attached with a player in the draft. Save the disappointment for something else more worthy, like the Milwaukee Bucks for example.

See you all tomorrow for Day 3!

Looking over the picks from yesterday, I forgot to mention another player that went off the board that I really liked. Sio Moore, OLB, Penn State would have been a nice addition to compliment Matthews on the other side.

Day 3: Round 4, Pick 109 (from Dolphins): David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado - This pick is a steal. Bakhtiari was projected to be a second or third round pick, and he fell here. Good protection for Aaron Rodgers at left tackle, but David will likely be able to play guard as well.

Day 3: Round 4, Pick 122: J.C. Trenner, OT, Cornell - Man, the Packers are drafting like they have a QB to protect or something. Another offensive lineman. This time, it's J.C. Trenner. Like Bakhtiari, he is a left tackle that will likely learn to play the entire offensive line. Another solid pick here by the Packers.

Day 3: Round 4, Pick 125 (from Broncos): Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA - STEAL! Holy crap, Ted. The Packers moved up in the draft to take a 2nd running back in the draft. The Packers are serious about patching the running game, obviously. The trio of Lacy/Franklin/Harris is scary good. Franklin provides good depth in case Lacy does in fact get injured, which was the reason Lacy dropped to the second round to begin with. Thompson is a great man for this pick. Bravo.

Day 3: Round 5, Pick 146 (from Dolphins): (TRADED to BRONCOS for their 125TH PICK)

Day 3: Round 5, Pick 159: Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa - I figured the Packers would eventually draft a defensive back, and I don't mind it here at all. Micah is listed as a corner back, but I foresee the Packers converting him to safety. Either that or they will convert a current corner to safety. Either way, the Packers got a very good DB. Takes good routes. His top of the line talent if he's in front of a play. Listed at 5'11"3/4, so he's 6 feet tall.

Day 3: Round 5, Pick 167: Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi State - This is a great pick, especially considering that we don't know the future of our defensive line following this season. Multiple reports indicate he has a good motor. He is 310 pounds but is said to carry his weight well. Big fan of Josh. Pickett, Raji, and Boyd could be great on many levels.

Day 3: Round 6, Pick 173 (from 49ers): (TRADED to BRONCOS for their 125TH PICK)

Day 3: Round 6, Pick 193: Nate Palmer, OLB, Illinois State - The pick makes a whole lot of sense. The Packers were his only workout during the pre-draft process. He lead all of college football in quarterback hits, which is highly appealing. Somewhere, Clay Matthews smiles. Pass rush is looking awfully promising heading into the season.

Day 3: Round 7, Pick 216 (from 49ers): Charles Johnson, WR, Grand Valley State - I like the value in Charles Johnson and where we drafted him. He ran a 4.38 and a 4.39 40 yard dash at his Pro Day at GVSU. Scouting reports have nothing but good things to say about this kid. He's been compared to Miles Austin and Marques Colston, and I'm okay with that.

Day 3, Round 7, Pick 224 (from Dolphins): Kevin Dorsey, WR, Maryland - Ted really did a great job addressing the wide receiver position in the 7th round. Dorsey is another great talent. Had a 38 inch vertical and ran a 4.47 40 yard dash. Standing at 6'2", he will have a height advantage over a lot of DBs. Dorsey and Johnson could be making us say "Greg who?" sooner than we think.

Day 3: Round 7, Pick 232: Sam Barrington, ILB, South Florida - Last but not least, the Packers took an inside linebacker to add depth to a much injured and inconsistent ILB core for the Packers. Barrington was heavily scouted by the 49ers, which makes me even more thrilled Green Bay got him. During his Pro Day, he ran a 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He recorded a 37-inch vertical leap and went 10-foot-2 in the broad jump. Barrington also went 4.25 in the short shuttle. He's going to fit right into the scheme of linebackers for the Packers and contribute well on special teams.

Undrafted Free Agent Signings

Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma St. (confirmed signing)

Ben Erickson, S, Illinois St. (confirmed signing)
Matt Brown, QB, Illinois St. (confirmed signing)
Gilbert Pena, DT, Mississippi (confirmed signing)
Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State (confirmed signing)
Patrick Lewis, C, Texas A&M (confirmed signing)
Andy Mulumba, DE/OLB, Eastern Michigan (confirmed signing)
Angelo Pease, RB, Kansas State (confirmed signing)
Myles White, WR, Louisiana Tech (confirmed signing)
Jeremy Vujnovich, OT, Louisiana College (confirmed signing)
Ryan Roberson, FB, Texas (rumored)
James Winchester, LS, Oklahoma (rumored)
Devin Willis, CB, Northern Arizona (camp tryout)
Damond Smith, CB, South Alabama (camp tryout)
Cedrick Moore, S, Stony Brook (camp tryout)

This was a great draft by Ted Thompson. And many agree. Many draft experts are grouping the Packers with the Steelers, 49ers, and Ravens. Ted addressed every area on the team that needed attention. He made many trades that turned out to be very beneficial. I like all of our picks and have nothing bad to say about it. On, the Packers didn't receive a draft grade lower than a C. Truly great job by the Packers staff over the past three days. Onto 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, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @olewr7, and @Stevie2Westside. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Packers 7 Round Mock Draft 5.0

We are less than two days away from the NFL Draft. It's a very exciting moment for football fans as they see their teams draft players that could potentially fix holes, patch problems, replace old parts, and strike gold with the next MVP. I've previously completed four other Mock Drafts for the Green Bay Packers, profiling potential picks the Packers could be looking at. After studying the college talent pool, here is what I have come up with for the Packers and what you can expect starting this Thursday night. But first, take a look at the previous mock drafts before reading this article (recommended).

Packers Mock Draft 1.0
Packers Mock Draft 2.0
Packers Mock Draft 3.0
Packers Mock Draft 4.0

To start this very detailed Mock Draft, it's going to start out with a move that most Packer fans will not favor if it does end up happening. This move will only work if one major factor plays out, which could very well play out. That factor is Geno Smith.

The Packers have a lot of holes to fill and there really isn't anyone the Packers will want to take at the 26th pick in the first round. Taking a look at the draft order, there are three teams that could spoil this move, one of them being their potential trade partner. First, the New York Jets. Rex Ryan and the front office seem dead set on Mark Sanchez, however they could end up feeling the pressure from their fans and take Geno Smith to compete for the quarterback job. But, it's very unlikely they take him with either of their first round picks (9, 13). If you think the Jets have problems on offense, I won't even get into their defense. They need to replace Revis and someone develop a pass rush.

The second team that could rain on the Packers parade is the Buffalo Bills. The Bills will be taking a quarterback with the 8th overall pick and they could very well pick Geno Smith, except that he doesn't fit their offense well at all. The Bills run a West Coast offense, which is more appealing to quarterbacks on the board like Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib. They could ignore that and still take Geno as the best QB on the board, but again it's unlikely.

The third and final team that could spoil things for Green Bay is the Philadelphia Eagles, who I have as the Packers trade partner. The Eagles have the 4th overall pick, but their quarterback need doesn't amount to taking one at the 4th pick. They have bigger holes to fill, like protecting their quarterback for example on the offensive line. But, I don't think that will stop the Eagles from getting a shot at Geno Smith. He would mess well with Chip Kelly's style of offense, and would be backup to Michael Vick which almost guarantees he'll get a few starts this season and eventually take over as the full time starter. Geno could easily fall out of the Top 10, heck even the Top 20 if it all plays right. (See: Alex Smith/Aaron Rodgers draft). All of the other teams drafting are very stable at the quarterback position. Let's take a look: (Teams are in order of the draft)

1. Alex Smith, Chiefs
2. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars
3. Matt Flynn, Raiders
4. (Philadelphia Eagles)
5. Matthew Stafford, Lions
6. Brandon Weeden, Browns
7. Carson Palmer, Cardinals
8. (Buffalo Bills)
9. (New York Jets)
10. Jake Locker, Titans
11. Philip Rivers, Chargers
12. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
13. (New York Jets)
14. Cam Newton, Panthers
15. Drew Brees, Saints
16. Sam Bradford, Rams
17. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
18. Tony Romo, Cowboys
19. Eli Manning, Giants
20. Jay Cutler, Bears

21-25 are picks that are owned by the Cincinnati Bengals who have Andy Dalton, another pick by the Rams, two picks by the Vikings who have Christian Ponder, and one pick by the Colts who have Andrew Luck. This draft is not quarterback heavy, nor is the quarterback a big need currently in the NFL. Smith is a starter-quality quarterback, so being a backup isn't ideal for him.

So you see, Geno could fall hard in this draft, which is where we land with the Packers.......... and with the 26th pick, the Green Bay Packer elect to trade their first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the Eagles' second and third round picks. And with that, here is the rest of the Packers Mock Draft.

Round 2 Pick 35 (from Eagles): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State - I said in the previous mock draft that the Packers would have no chance to get Bjoern Werner. Well, this trade with the Eagles makes it possible. The Packers are clearly going to focus on the defensive line in this draft. It was quite evident this offseason. They brought in Chris Canty and Steve McLendon to meet with them, who unfortunately didn't strike a deal with Green Bay and signed elsewhere. The fact the Packers kicked some tires with defensive lineman shows it's a concern for them. It wouldn't hurt the Packers to look for defensive line help. Jerel Worthy had knee surgery at the end of the season, Raji was a little banged up last year, and C.J. Wilson needs someone to compliment him better. Pass rush pass rush pass rush. When talking about Werner's figurative engine, he's got a Hemi. Great blocker and great instincts. He might be outsized a few times, but that happens with a lot of players.

Round 2 Pick 55: Cornelius Washington, DE/OLB, Georgia - I can't even begin to tell you how much Washington's stock has risen in this draft class. When I first started looking at mock drafts back in January, Washington was maybe a 6th or 7th round pick, some even had him as a undrafted free agent. Then, in mid to late February, he started popping up as a 4th or 5th rounder. Finally, after his pro day he jumped up again. This time, he was being tossed in as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. He had the fastest 40 yard dash at the Combine for his position. Washington is listed as a defensive end, but would likely convert to an outside linebacker for Green Bay. Erik Walden is gone, and no one could be happier then me. What's even better is that horrid contract the Colts gave him. 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. Washington is another pass rusher, which is a need for the Packers as Clay Matthews needs someone to compliment him opposite of him.

Round 3 Pick 67 (from Eagles): J.J. Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern - As I've said previously on Twitter and in blogs, 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 this offseason. They will need to address this in the draft at some point, and I don't have a problem with them doing it here, especially with the extra pick thanks to the Eagles. 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. The Packers are said to be extremely high on Wilcox and will take him here if available. Wilcox has great instincts and reads offenses well. Attacks the line really well on running plays. He has good hops and great hand-eye coordination.

Round 3 Pick 88: David Quessenberry, G/C/OT, San Jose State - If I had to say one of these picks would be a lock for the Packers, it would be David Quessenberry. According to multiple sources, the Packers have recently expressed major interest in drafting David. I've been a huge supporter of his since February. What he brings to the table is remarkable and exactly what the Packers need. The Packers had major problems at the offensive line after letting Scott Wells walk away, so they'll have to address that area in the draft. Evan Dietrich-Smith seems to be the center of the future for the Packers, but in case that doesn't turn out for Green Bay, Quessenberry is an option as he plays all three offensive line positions. 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.

Round 4 Pick 122: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford - 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 an 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. Taylor is a great running back prospect in this draft and is seriously underrated. He's a great ball catcher and has great down field awareness with great explosive legs. If the Packers want to fix their running game without wasting it on a high draft pick, Taylor is their man.

UPDATE (4/25): Brandon Saine was released yesterday after failing his physical. Saine injured his knee last season vs. the Texans and was shut down due to it. With Saine gone, the Packers will need to add a running back for depth, even if they go about re-signing Cedric Benson. Training camp will make the cream rise to the top.

Round 5 Pick 159: A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State - As the Packers need to add depth at outside linebacker, they also need to start thinking about inside linebacker as well. I'm not sure how long the Packers are going to have AJ Hawk. I don't mind him, but with all the injuries we had at linebacker last year it makes sense to add more depth. Ted Thompson likes Klein. Ted scouted him during the East-West Shrine game. Klein was a standout player and caught Ted's eye. The Packers would benefit with drafting Klein in the 5th round here, especially with another pick just 8 spots away.

UPDATE (4/25): With the departure of D.J. Smith yesterday after he failed his physical, this pick makes a lot more sense now then it ever did before. Smith played only 6 games last season before injuring his knee. Desmond Bishop needs to prove he is healthy after his hamstring injury last year. Klein provides a nice safety net.

Round 5 Pick 167 (Compensatory): Ace Sanders, WR/KR, South Carolina - 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. Ace Sanders has elite speed and is said to be dangerous once he has the ball in his hands. For only being 5'7", he has good vision and sets up for blocks really well. Good hand-eye coordination and has really good hands. He isn't afraid to cut across to the middle of the field as he has good toughness and concentration. He would fit in well as our new kick returner as well as a number four or five wide out.

Round 6 Pick 193: Demetrius McCray, CB, Appalachian State - With the exit of Charles Woodson and looking back on what I said earlier, the Packers need some depth when it comes to our defensive backs. And, with news coming out from the Packers that Tramon Williams will have to potentially compete for a spot on next year's depth chart at cornerback, McCray would give Williams some good competition. McCray ran a 4.46 and jumped a 36" vertical at the NFL Combine. He has a knack for interceptions, having 10 in his college career. He's got great speed. Good on redirection and making good choices on routes.

Round 7 Pick 232: Garrett Gilkey, OT, Chadron State - Same reason to add Quessenberry. The Packers needs oodles of depth for lineman, as it is clearly the most vulnerable position on our team for the past couple of seasons. If we going to be paying Aaron Rodgers a sixth of our team's salary cap, we better put the right people in front of him to protect our investment. The Packers are set at the guard position with TJ Lang and Josh Sitton. The tackle position is the one that worries me a lot, so adding extra depth won't hurt us at all. Garrett Gilkey is 6 foot 6 inches tall and weight just over three hundred and twenty pounds. He's going to have to mature a bit to make it, but with his natural size and talent the Packers should be comfortable drafting him.

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, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @olewr7, and @Stevie2Westside. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Steve's 7 Round Packers Mock Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft is only two days away, so it is time to break out the ultimate Packers draft.  All of the Packers picks will be explained and used in either a trade or a draft pick.

To start off the Packers draft activity, the Green Bay Packers have accepted a TRADE with the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills receive the Packers 1st round pick (26) for the Bills 2nd round (41) and 3rd round (71).  I don’t believe the Bills will take Ryan Nassib, QB from Syracuse with the 8th overall pick.  The run of quarterbacks will start late in the 1st round and the Bills want a QB of the future.  It doesn’t hurt that Nassib just scored a 41 on the Wonderlic test this week. 

With the 41st selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Eddie Lacy, RB, University of Alabama

The Packers have a huge hole to fill at RB, however Lacy is a reach in the 1st round.  Lacy will be a great value pick early in the 2nd round.  Lacy is faster than he looks and can receive the ball out of the backfield.  He was successful in Alabama and would be  perfect fit for Mike McCarthy’s offense.

With the 55th selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select DT, Kawann Short, Purdue University.

It is no surprise that the Packers need help on the defensive line.  Jerel Worthy is coming off of surgery, so he is still a question mark.  The Packers have not really hit on a defensive lineman besides Raji lately, so it is time to take another stab at it.  Short has potential to be a long time starter for the Packers.

With the 71st selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Travis Frederick, C, University of Wisconsin.

Jeff Saturday was a colossal bust.  He had a great career, but should have retired instead of joining the Packers.  Dietrich-Smith filled in fine, but taking a center early in the 3rd round is a steal for the Pack.  Frederick would challenge DS for the starting position right away and everyone knows, competition at positions is never a bad thing.

With the 88th selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select J.J. Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern.

News out of Green Bay says the Packers are very high on Wilcox.  Hard to tell now a days what is a smoke screen and what is not.  The Packers do need help at the safety position and Wilcox can come in and compete right away.  The Packers have been looking for an answer at safety since the loss of Nick Collins.

TRADE : The Packers send 2014 4th round pick, 2013 5th round pick (159) and 2013 6th round pick (193) to the New York Jets for their 4th round pick (106).

With the 106th selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Marquise Goodwin, WR/KR, Texas.

Aaron Rodgers was vocal about not wanting Randall Cobb returning kicks or punts.  It would not be a shock to see the Packers take a kick returner that can work on his receiving game over the next few seasons.  Goodwin is a talented return man that could start returning immediately and let Cobb focus on the offensive side of the ball.

With the 122nd selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Luke Marquardt, T, Azusa Pacific.

Marquardt is a beast of a man.  6’8”, 315 pounds, holy cow.  He is still very raw and would need a little time to develop, however his frame is worth taking him in the late 4th round.  Marquardt has been on the rise the last month or two.  Originally, he had a 7th round grade, but the potential is there and he has risen quite a bit in value.

With the 167th selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Nico Johnson, ILB, University of Alabama.

Some may argue that the Packers have LB depth, however with Desmond Bishop coming off injury, as well as DJ Smith, it definitely would not hurt.  Johnson is a smart player, playing in Nick Saban’s 3-4 style defense and he started the last years without missing a game. High quality backup right away, with time to develop into a starter.

With the 232nd selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Sam Brenner, G, Utah.

Brenner seems to be right up Ted Thompson’s alley.  The Utah guard started the first two games of the 2012 season at RG and finished the final 10 games at LT.  Another body to throw into the offensive line mix.

There it is.  The Packers have restocked and are ready for the 2013 season!  If Jordan Rodgers goes undrafted, look for the Packers to sign Aaron’s younger brother and put him on the practice squad.  The Packers will most likely sign a few other undrafted free agents right away and hopefully finding a few gems.  Happy almost draft day everyone!!

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, @Mik3_Schu, @jheldred, @olewr7, and @Stevie2Westside. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

NBA Year End Awards

I initially started this as a “Bucks end-of-season awards” piece, but that quickly became depressing so I moved on to the NBA as a whole. The internet would do just fine without my opinion on the matter but I really wanted to write something NBA-centric, so deal with it.

1. Lebron James, F, Miami Heat
2. Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Carmelo Anthony, F, New York Knicks
4. Chris Paul, PG, LA Clippers
5. Tim Duncan, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs

Well, duh. I don’t really feel that this choice needs much explanation, but I’ll give you one anyways. Lebron is the best player in the league. He plays on the best team, a team that happens to be the best because he plays on it. He just set career-highs in field goal %, 3-point %, and true shooting %, and also posting career lows in fouls and turnovers per game. His PER (Player Efficiency Rating) was off the charts (blowing away the rest of the league), and he also managed to be one of the top defensive players in the league. If stats are not your bag, watching any Heat game will tell you everything you need to know. He’s the boring choice for MVP, but he’s unquestionably the right choice. In a world where Lebron James does not exist, Durant would be the worthy MVP. But Lebron does exist, so….

Rookie of the Year
1. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers
2. Anthony Davis, C, New Orleans Hornets
3. Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards
4. Andre Drummond, PF/C, Detroit Pistons
5. John Henson, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks

This race is just as clear-cut as MVP. Lillard ran away with it plain and simple, keeping a mediocre Portland team relevant for a majority of the season. Despite coming from a small school and playing a demanding position both physically and mentally, Lillard played more like a 10-year veteran than a rookie. He finished 12th in scoring (19.0 ppg), 17th in assists (6.5 apg), 5th in made threes (185), and second in minutes (38.6 mpg). He played big in big moments, having some of his best games against the top teams in the league. He was putrid defensively, but that’s not all that surprising for a rookie who carried as big a load as he did.

Davis was a nightly double-double threat who averaged nearly two blocks a game, and probably would have given Lillard a run for his money had he not missed 18 games due to injury. Every other candidate had their moments but couldn’t maintain production consistently.

Defensive Player of the Year
1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
2. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
3. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
4. Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets
5. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Gasol’s traditional numbers aren’t flashy (7.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.7 blocks), but he’s the anchor of the toughest defensive team in the league. He’s the Grizzlies’ quarterback on defense, making sure everyone’s in the right spot and helping out when they’re not. He’s too strong for opponents to take one-on-one, and protects the basket well against penetration. He does it all.

All of the other players on the list had tremendous defensive seasons in their own right, but Gasol was head and shoulders above the competition. Noah would have made it more of a discussion, but simply missed too many games with a foot injury.

Sixth Man of the Year
1. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers
2. J.R. Smith, New York Knicks
3. Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets
4. Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
5. Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder

This was the toughest one for me to pick. I considered copping out and splitting the award between Smith and Crawford, but I took a stand and chose Crawford. Smith has been ridiculously hot since the All-Star break and as a result is probably the odds-on favorite, but Crawford’s been consistently excellent off the bench all season, and I think consistency should play a huge part in this award. Crawford has a significant edge in FG %, 3-pt %, and FT %. Smith has a large edge in rebounds and points per game, but also plays more minutes; Crawford’s per-36 minutes scoring average is better.  Neither guy plays a lick of defense, so there’s no edge to be had there. Smith’s tremendous run of games will probably earn him the award, but I find Crawford equally deserving.


Most Improved Player
1. LARRY SANDERS!, Milwaukee Bucks
2. Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans Hornets
3. Earl Clark, Los Angeles Lakers
4. Nikola Vukevic, Orlando Magic
5. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic/Milwaukee Bucks

This award literally has no criteria, so there’s almost no wrong answer. You could legitimately argue for Lebron or Durant, and no one could tell you you’re wrong. But I view this award differently than most people. Here’s how I view it; who made the greatest leap in usefulness? Who went from being a bottom-of-the-roster player or fringe rotation guy to a legitimate NBA player? Paul George and Jrue Holiday aren’t eligible for me; they were already good players who just saw a boost in playing time or progressed as they were expected to. All of the players I listed were either unknowns or poor players that made huge strides this season.

Sanders may be a homer pick, but his progression is nothing short of incredible. Prior to the 2012-13 season, he was barely playable. Inefficient offensively and undisciplined defensively, he pretty much only saw playing time because the Bucks had no one else. His per-36 minutes numbers really tell the story; he’s retained his elite shot-blocking skill while drastically cutting down on his fouls, and improving in every other statistical category. He’s become one of the better defensive big men in the game despite being undersized for his position, and has grown into a much more efficient offensive player, showing better hands in the post and cutting down on the foolish shots.

Vasquez had a similar boost in productivity this season, but showed some flashes at the end of last year. Vukevic probably had the best season of the group, but also showed flashes last year and almost fits under the category of a good player who saw a big boost in minutes.

Coach of the Year
1. George Karl, Denver Nuggets
2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
3. Eric Spoelstra, Miami Heat
4. Mike Woodson, New York Knicks
5. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls

This one’s pretty difficult to pick without actually knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. We can judge a coach’s performance based on how his team played relative to our expectations, or based on perceived level of difficulty based on injuries. But it’s pretty much impossible for us to know everything a coach does for his team, especially in the locker room. There are a lot of unknowns, but I went with my gut feeling here. Karl’s Nuggets have been impressive all season, weathering a difficult schedule early on before going on a late-season tear that earned them the third seed in the West. The Nuggets were their usual dominant selves at home, but became a better road team this season and imposed their unique style of play on just about every opponent. And they managed all this without a star player, a truly impressive feat in a league dominated by star players. Cases could be made for anyone on this list, but to me Karl stands out.

So there are my picks. Now go enjoy 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, @Stevie2Westside, and @olewr7. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

2013 MLB Season Preview: NL East

Washington Nationals

Notable additions: Adam Laroche (re-signed), Denard Span (trade), Rafael Soriano (FA)

Notable losses: Edwin Jackson (FA), Tom Gorzelanny (FA), Sean Burnett (FA), Mike Gonzalez (FA), John Lannan (FA), Mark DeRosa (FA), Mike Morse (trade)

I don’t know what to say here, really. The Nats are really, really good. They pretty much have no holes. Excellent pitching staff, excellent offense, excellent defense, elite bullpen (as much as bullpen performance can be predicted). Their two best players are too young to have seen “Terminator 2” (probably). Unless an ocean of injuries occur, I can’t fathom this team not running away with the division.

The offense is frightening, top-to-bottom, and every player is at least average with the glove as well. Denard Span is fine as a leadoff guy, though he’s not special in any way. Jayson Werth is just about the perfect #2 hitter, with excellent on-base skills and a good power/speed combo. You’ve probably heard about Bryce Harper. He’s, like, awesome at playing baseball and stuff. Ryan Zimmerman is an excellent two-way player when healthy. Adam LaRoche had a bounce-back year in 2012, I’m not sure that he’ll keep it up but he’s a solid player nonetheless. Shortstop Ian Desmond is coming off a career year on both sides of the ball, it’s reasonable to expect some regression but once again he’s a solid player overall. Danny Espinosa has speed and power but also has huge holes in his swing. The fact that he’s probably their seventh-best hitter is pretty nuts. The catcher position isn’t great but the bench is also great with a super-utility guy in Steve Lombardozzi and a masher in Tyler Moore.

The pitching staff is no least ridiculous. Steven Strasburg is possibly the best young pitcher we’ve ever seen. Gio Gonzalez surpassed expectations in his first year with the Nats and garnered some Cy Young votes. Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmerman is no slouch either, and would be a #1 starter on a number of teams. Dan Haren isn’t what he used to be after some back issues but still has elite control and can eat tons of innings. Lefty Ross Detwiler is a #5 starter in name only, as he also possesses very good control while getting lots of ground balls. He throws fairly hard and should develop more strikeout ability over time. The bullpen is loaded and has probably three pitchers that would be closers on most any team in Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen. Zach Duke is the weak link but he’s just the long man so whatever.


Catcher: Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
First Base: Adam Laroche
Second Base: Danny Espinosa
Shortstop: Ian Desmond
Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman
Outfield: Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Roger Bernadina
Utility: Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi
Starting Pitchers: Steven Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler
Relief Pitchers: Henry Rodriguez, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus, Zach Duke, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano

Atlanta Braves

Notable additions: Justin Upton (trade), BJ Upton (FA), Chris Johnson (trade), Jordan Walden (trade), Gerald Laird (FA), Jordan Schafer (trade)

Notable losses: Martin Prado (trade), Randall Delgado (trade), Tommy Hanson (trade), Michael Bourn (FA), Chipper Jones (retired), David Ross (FA), Jair Jurrjens (FA)

The Braves underwent a fairly major roster shake-up, yet after all was said and done they’re probably still a Wild Card team. Bringing in the Upton brothers is a significant boost to the offense, but the losses of Chipper Jones and Martin Prado still hurts a bit. The bullpen is great but the rotation has some question marks.

Much is made about how many times this offense will strike out but frankly that doesn’t really matter. The outfield is ridiculously young and talented, with both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton being potential MVP candidates. Freddie Freeman is a solid first baseman, and when healthy Brian McCann is a very good catcher. Dan Uggla is a declining player but still can hit baseballs very far. Andrelton Simmons is already one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, whatever he does with the bat is gravy. Third base will be a platoon between Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson. Neither player is very good but if matched up properly they should be useful at least.

Tim Hudson heads the pitching staff, which says more about the rotation than it does about Hudson. He still gets tons of ground balls but can’t strike anyone out anymore. Kris Medlen had a ridiculous breakout after being moved into the rotation last year, but doesn’t have the elite stuff to back it up and is due for regression. Mike Minor has some solid stuff but nibbles way too much and is incredibly annoying to watch. Paul Maholm is a fine pitcher who won’t wow you but always puts up solid numbers. Julio Teheran had an impressive Spring but it remains to be seen if it will carry over in any way. Even with the injury to Johnny Venters, the bullpen is still pretty impressive. Christhian Martinez is the best long man in baseball, Jordan Walden has only one pitch but throws it very hard, Eric O’Flaherty is perennially underrated, and closer Craig Kimrel is coming off one of the best relief seasons ever where he managed to strike out half the batters he faced. Seriously, a 50% strikeout rate.


Catcher: Brian McCann (DL), Gerald Laird, Evan Gattis
First Base: Freddie Freeman
Second Base: Dan Uggla
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons
Third Base: Juan Francisco, Chris Johnson
Outfield: Justin Upton, BJ Upton, Jason Heyward, Reed Johnson, Jordan Schafer
Utility: Ramiro Pena, Paul Janish (DL)
Starting Pitchers: Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, Julio Teheran
Relief Pitchers: Christhian Martinez, Anthony Varvaro, Cory Gearrin, Luis Avilan, Eric O’Flaherty, Jordan Walden, Johnny Venters (DL), Craig Kimbrel

Philadelphia Phillies

Notable additions: Ben Revere (trade), Michael Young (trade), Mike Adams (FA), Delmon Young (FA), John Lannan (FA), Chad Durbin (FA)

Notable losses: Juan Pierre (FA), Vance Worley (trade), Josh Lindblom (trade), Chad Qualls (FA), Ty Wiggington (FA), Nate Schierholtz (non-tendered), Placido Palanco (FA)

It’s easy to remember the glory years of the Phillies when they churned out division titles and MVPs every year, but despite the roster still having a lot of the same players, they’re no longer a glory team. Far from it. Most of the stars are either hurt, old, bad, or all of the above. The pitching is okay, but the lineup is a mess and the defense is a disaster. There will still be flashes of the old days, but at this point the Phillies are more likely to win 71 than 91.

I can’t believe this offense is real. Aside from Chase Utley, who’s still pretty great when healthy, it’s hard to find anything to like. Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins are fine, and Domonic Brown may finally become something with playing time, but Ryan Howard is a shadow of a shell of himself and the duo of Delmon Young and Michael Young are two of the worst everyday players in baseball. The bench has some okay players but nothing worth getting excited about. Carlos Ruiz is a fine player at catcher, but is suspended for the first 25 games and shouldn’t be expected to repeat his 2012 production anyway.

The pitching should at least be worth watching. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are both ace-level pitchers that are capable of carrying the staff. Roy Halladay is a bit of an unknown at this point, as age and injuries have robbed him of velocity and his Cy Young days are likely over. Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan are fine back-end starters but also incredibly boring. The bullpen is similar to the rotation. Two excellent pitchers (Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo), one pitcher who’s past his prime but still solid (Mike Adams), and a bunch of other guys.


Catcher: Carlos Ruiz (suspended), Eric Kratz, Humberto Quintero
First Base: Ryan Howard
Second Base: Chase Utley
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins
Third Base: Michael Young
Outfield: Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, Delmon Young, Laynce Nix, Ender Inciarte
Utility: John Mayberry, Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen
Starting Pitchers: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan
Relief Pitchers: Raul Valdez, Jeremy Horst, Phillipe Aumont, Chad Durbin, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams, Jonathan Papelbon

New York Mets

Notable additions: Travis D’Arnaud (trade), John Buck (trade),  Marlon Byrd (FA), Brandon Lyon (FA), Shaun Marcum (FA), Scott Atchinson (FA), LaTroy Hawkins

Notable losses: RA Dickey (trade), Josh Thole (trade), Scott Hairston (FA), Ronny Cedeno (FA), Andres Torres (FA), Kelly Shoppach (FA), Mike Pelfrey (FA), Chris Young (FA)

Much like the Pirates, the Mets were a competitive team for about half the 2012 season. Then the wheels fell off, which isn’t surprising considering they weren’t very good. Some good things happened, such as the team’s first ever no-hitter (courtesy of the now-broken Johan Santana), David Wright being awesome, Matt Harvey looking like a future ace, Jon Niese getting a nose job. But mostly, the team wasn’t good enough to get away with a shockingly bad bullpen and poor depth. The team once again has little depth and what looks like a shaky bullpen, but the future looks a little brighter after moving knuckleballer RA Dickey for top prospect Travis D’Arnaud and a couple other good arms. D’Arnaud and fellow prospect Zack Wheeler should both see the majors at some point this season, making the Mets an interesting team to watch.

The offense constitutes of David Wright (who is one of the best players in baseball) and a bunch of dudes. Ike Davis, John Buck, and Lucas Duda have lots of power but not much else. Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy can get on base but not much else. Marlon Byrd is alive and not much else. The offense is fairly well-rounded as a whole but if Wright has to miss much time then it could get really ugly. The defense is something of a disaster. David Wright waivers between great and awful defensively for no reason, and sadly he’s their second-best defender. Ike Davis is excellent at first base, which is helpful considering he has to field “throws” from Wright and Murphy. Ruben Tejada would probably be excellent at second base but he has to play shortstop and he’s a little below average there. The outfield is an even greater mess, to the point where the basically signed Byrd just so they could say someone can field out there.

Jon Niese heads the pitching staff, which isn’t the best thing ever. Niese is a very solid pitcher, he doesn’t miss tons of bats but draws lots of weak contact. He’d probably be a #2 or 3 on most staffs. Youngster Matt Harvey, on the other hand, has electric stuff and can miss tons of bats but his lack of command will probably keep him from pitching deep into games. Shaun Marcum tends to pitch well when he’s healthy, but he isn’t healthy very often. Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner are both “just a guy” kind of guys. The bullpen looks to be a little more solid than last year, at least on paper. Jon Rauch, LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon, and Scott Atchinson are solid, reliable veterans that don’t have a lot of upside. Bobby Parnell serves as the closer (at least while Frank Francisco is on the DL), he throws super hard and finally seems to be ironing out his control. His lack of a real second pitch makes him vulnerable at times.

Catcher: John Buck, Anthony Recker
First Base: Ike Davis
Second Base: Daniel Murphy
Shortstop: Ruben Tejada
Third Base: David Wright
Outfield: Lucas Duda, Colin Cowgill, Marlon Byrd, Kirk Nieuwnehuis, Mike Baxter
Utility: Jordany Valdespin, Justin Turner
Starting Pitchers: Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum (DL), Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner
Relief Pitchers: Frank Francisco (FA), Scott Atchinson, LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon, Greg Burke, Scott Rice, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin, Bobby Parnell

Miami Marlins

Notable additions: Adeiny Hechavarria (trade), Juan Pierre (FA), Placido Palanco (FA), Casey Kotchman, Chris Valaika (FA), Kevin Slowey (FA), Miguel Olivo (FA), Jon Rauch (FA), Chad Qualls (FA), John Maine (FA)

Notable losses: everyone but Giancarlo Stanton



Catcher: Rob Brantly, Miguel Olive
First Base: Casey Kotchman, Logan Morrison (DL)
Second Base: Donovan Solano
Shortstop: Adeiny Hechavarria
Third Base: Placido Palanco
Outfield: Juan Pierre, Chris Coghlan, Giancarlo Stanton, Austin Kearns, Justin Ruggiano
Utility: Greg Dobbs, Chris Valaika
Starting Pitchers: Ricky Nolasco, Kevin Slowey, Wade LeBlanc, Alex Sanabia, Jose Fernandez
Relief Pitchers: John Maine, Jon Rauch, AJ Ramos, Mike Dunn, Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls, Steve Cishek

Projected standings

Washington Nationals (101-61, Division Champions)
Atlanta Braves (93-69, first Wild Card)
New York Mets (84-78, third place)
Philadelphia Phillies (81-81, fourth place)
Miami Marlins (68-94, fifth place)

As you can see, I have the Nats as a 100-win team, the only one in baseball. Not only do I think they’re the best team in baseball, but they should be so much better than the rest of the National league that 100 wins isn’t insane. The Braves are pretty good in their own right but still a notch or two below the Nats. I might be the only person on the planet who has the Mets with a winning record, but I think they can surprise, and I have no real rational as to why I believe this. The Phillies and Marlins are two of my least favorite teams in baseball, and honestly I think both can finish with much worse records (and probably will, considering the division), but the Phillies still have good pitching and the Marlins frankly have a lot of unknowns.

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, April 3, 2013

2013 MLB Season Preview: AL Central

Detroit Tigers

Key Additions: Anibal Sanchez, SP: 5years/$80MM. Torii Hunter, OF: 2years/$26MM. Brayan Pena, C. Octavio Dotel, RP: 1year/$3.5MM. Jhonny Peralta, SS: 1year/$6MM.

Key Losses: Gerald Laird, Justin Henry, Delmon Young, Andy Oliver, Daniel Schlereth, Marcelo Carreno.

Key Trades: Acquired C Ramon Cabrera from Pirates for P Andrew Oliver. Acquired 2B Jeff Kobernus from Red Sox for UT Justin Henry. Acquired P Kyle Lobstein from Mets for Cash Considerations.

The Tigers are coming off a World Series run only to get swept by the Giants in embarrassing fashion. The good thing going for the Tigers is that they are pretty much the same team as they were last year with a few upgrades and the fact that they got rid of Delmon Young.

When it comes to the Tigers offense, of course you have to begin with Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is the heart of this offense with everyone succeeding because of his production. Austin Jackson will score 100 plus runs again this year because he will have Miguel Cabrera driving him in. You have Prince Fielder hitting clean-up. That's always a good thing. They added Torii Hunter's glove for the outfield who should have a decent year at the plate. I like Andy Dirks in left field. He's a sleeper for sure. The rest of the Tigers' offense is pretty bad. Alex Avila peaked for two months in 2011 and hasn't done much since. Omar Infante.....yeah. Jhonny Peralta plays well in sessions and isn't consistent with the bat.

The Tigers have a very, very strong starting rotation. Maybe the best in the American League. It starts with newly extended ace, Justin Verlander. Verlander is very interested because he is labeled as a ticking time bomb for his style of pitching yet he hasn't shown any regress at all. Not saying that it won't happen still, but a lot of guys similar to the way he pitches would have had their arms fall off by now. Anibal Sanchez is probably the least-dependable pitcher in the Tigers' rotation and it's unfortunate that he's their number two starter. Rick Porcello has a very bright future and could really do great things this year. Doug Fister and Max Scherzer fill in the bottom of the rotation, who are both very good. as for the bullpen, it's a joke. A sad, dragged on for 15 minute joke. They have no clue on who their closer is and will start the year doing closer by committee. Bruce Rondon was set to be the closer, until the Tigers realized he was overweight and had major control issues. Sounds like someone who used to close for them. Jose, something.


Catcher: Alex Avila, Brayan Pena
First Base: Prince Fielder
Second Base: Omar Infante 
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta
Outfield: Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Andy Dirks
Utility: Victor Martinez, Don Kelly, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ramon Santiago
Starting Pitching: Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer
Relief Pitching: Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, Octavio Dotel, Drew Smyly, Brayan Villareal, Darin Downs

Kansas City Royals

Key Additions: Jeremy Guthrie, SP: 2years, $25MM. Claimed C George Kottaras off waivers from Athletics.

Key Losses: Wil Myers, Vin Mazzaro, Joakim Soria, Mike Montgomery, Brandon Sisk, Patrick Leonard.

Key Trades: Acquired SP James Shields, P Wade Davis and IF Elliot Johnson from Rays for OF Wil Myers, P Mike Montgomery, 3B Patrick Leonard and P Jake Odorizzi. Acquired P Luis Rico and P Luis Santos from Pirates for P Vin Mazzaro and 1B Clint Robinson. Acquired SP Ervin Santana from Angels for P Brandon Sisk.

I really liked the Royals going into last season but knew their pitching would be their downfall. This year, I still really like them only this time their pitching just might be okay. They went out and made some questionable yet needed moves to improve their pitching. Many argue they gave up too much (Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard) for James Shields.

Their offense will come together this year. Eric Hosmer had a really bad year last season, and that's saying it in a nice way. Moustakas wasn't much better. Billy Butler held that offense together along with Alex Gordon. Alex Gordon had a really strong spring and could be a stud this season. Salvador Perez will be someone to watch this year. He's got a good bat and should be batting in the five or six hole. Chris Getz, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar are a part of the youth movement the Royals are going with. Those three offer great upside and speed if they can get on base. And then there's Jeff Francoeur....

James Shields was acquired from the Rays and is now the Royals' ace. Then you have Jeremy Guthrie, who sucks. Ervin Santana isn't much better. Wade Davis might be a silver lining for the rotation. Luis Mendoza tops out the last spot in the rotation, which is mind boggling to me. The bullpen holds a few pitchers that were in the starting rotation last year, but are now out because of the upgrades. I personally think Luke Hochevar should be in there instead of Mendoza. Bruce Chen, who was the Royals Opening Day starter last year, is now the long reliever in the pen. Greg Holland is a great closer. Tim Collins and Kelvin Herrera are pretty good. Their bullpen should be alright.


Catcher: Salvador Perez, George Kottaras
First Base: Eric Hosmer
Second Base: Chris Getz 
Third Base: Mike Moustakas
Shortstop: Alcides Escobar
Outfield: Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Jeff Francoeur, Jarrod Dyson
Utility: Billy Butler, Miguel Tejada, Elliot Johnson
Starting Pitching: James Shields, Jeremy Gurthie, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis, Luis Mendoza
Relief Pitching: Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar, Juan Gutierrez, Bruce Chen

Chicago White Sox

Key Additions: Jeff Keppinger, IF: 3years/$12MM. Matt Lindstrom, RP: 1year/$2.8MM. Dewayne Wise, OF: 1year/$700K. Gavin Floyd, SP: 1year/$9.5MM. Claimed 1B Lars Anderson off waivers from Diamondbacks, then claimed off waivers by Blue Jays, then later acquired of waivers from Blue Jays for cash. Claimed P Zach Stewart off waivers from Pirates. Claimed IF Angel Sanchez from Angels in Rule 5 draft.

Key Losses: A.J. Pierzynski, Dan Johnson, Kevin Youkilis, Jose Lopez, Phil Humber, Zach Stewart, Francisco Liriano, Brett Myers.

Key Trades: Acquired 3B Conor Gillaspie from Giants for P Jeff Soptic. Acquired OF Blake Tekotte from Padres for P Brandon Kloess.

The White Sox look pretty good this year, all things considered. It's unfortunate that their minor league system is so bad, otherwise I would say they are a few years away from over taking the Tigers. But, they aren't even close.

The White Sox have a very underrated outfield. Alex Rios, Dayan Viciedo, and Alejandro De Aza combine for around 60 home runs and 200 RBI. Viciedo is the only one who concerns me. He had a good season last year but is still unproven. Adam Dunn is going to strike out a lot, but he will hit around 40 homeruns, so there's that. Paul Konerko is somehow still playing baseball, and playing it will. Jeff Keppinger fell into a starting role with the White Sox at third base, which is what he was looking for as a free agent. Defensively, this team sound.

Chris Sale, tearing his arm off.
The pitching, as cliche as it sounds, will make or break the White Sox this year. I like Chris Sale, although his arm will be dead in two years. The rest of the rotation has too many question marks. Jake Peavy is coming off a career year after recovering from two injury ridden seasons before last. Galvin Floyd is good for 10-12 wins, but nothing excites me about him. Jose Quintana has the same birthday as me, so he's pretty cool. Dylan Axelrod and his 38% ground ball rate and 5.47 ERA from last year is the fifth starter. Their bullpen should be able to relinquish any setbacks the rotation causes during games.  Hector Santiago, Matt Lindstrom, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed are the best pitchers in this pen. Thornton is okay. Donnie Veal isn't bad either. He has good minor league stats.


Catcher: Tyler Flowers, Hector Gimenez
First Base: Paul Konerko
Second Base: Gordon Beckham
Third Base: Jeff Keppinger
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez
Outfield: Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Dewayne Wise
Utility: Adam Dunn, Conor Gillaspie, Angel Sanchez
Starting Pitching: Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana, Dylan Axelrod
Relief Pitching: Addison Reed, Matt Thorton, Jesse Crain, Nathan Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Donnie Veal, Hector Santiago.

Cleveland Indians

Key Additions: Nick Swisher, OF: 1years/$56MM. Michael Bourn, OF: 4years/$48MM. Brett Myers, P: 1year/$7MM. Mark Reynolds, IF: 1year/$6MM. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP: 1year/$5.75MM.

Key Losses: Travis Hafner, Lars Anderson, Casey Kotchman, Jack Hannahan, Jason Donald, Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, Scott Maine, Russ Canzler.

Key Trades: Acquired OF Quincy Latimore from Pirates for P Jeanmar Gomez. Acquired OF Drew Stubbs, P Trevor Bauer, P Matt Albers and P Bryan Shaw in a three-way deal with Reds and Diamondbacks for OF Shin-Soo Choo, IF Jason Donald, RP Tony Sipp and 1B Lars Anderson. Acquired IF Mike Aviles and UT Yan Gomes from Blue Jays for P Esmil Rogers.

The Indians had a very busy offseason. They spent a lot of money for only being a fourth place team. The decline of this team since 2007 is astounding. Don't believe me? Look it up. And don't let their second place finish in 2011 mislead you. It was still a losing record. Larry Dolan has done nothing since he traded Sabathia away in 2008. I honestly believe the Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn signing were his last desperation moves otherwise I don't think he would have made any moves this offseason. I will say that firing Manny Acta and hiring Terry Francona was a really good move.

The offense is very solid for the most part. Michael Bourn will lead off and steal around fifty bases this year. Cabrera, Kipnis, and Swisher will hit 2-3-4, respectively. Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, and Mark Reynolds will provide some middle of the order power with lots of strikeouts. Speaking of strikeouts, Drew Stubbs will be batting 8th or 9th, with Lonnie Chisenhall batting where Stubbs isn't. If the Braves will strike out the most in the National League, the Indians will likely be the strikeout leader in the American League. So, yeah.

Now we look at pitching, and there isn't much to look at in this pitiful rotation. Justin Masterson is their number one, but wouldn't even be a number two or three on any other team. Then we get to Ubaldo Jimenez who is looking to bounce back after a pretty bad 2012. Am I crazy to say that Brett Myers might be their best starter? Maybe, but on paper it looks that way. Zach McAllister will be fun to watch and see develop this year. The rest of their starters are recovering from Tommy John surgery, which makes me wonder why their current pitching coach has a job. Their bullpen is pretty bad too. Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano are both closers, but Vinnie will likely set up for Perez. Everyone outside of those two and MAYBE Bryan Shaw, are awful. Good luck, Cleveland.


Catcher: Carlos Santana, Lou Marson
First Base: Nick Swisher, Jason Giambi (DL)
Second Base: Jason Kipnis
Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera
Outfield: Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs
Utility: Mark Reynolds, Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles
Starting Pitching: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Zach McAllister, Scott Kazmir, Josh Tomlin (DL), Frank Herrmann (DL), Blake Wood (DL)
Relief Pitching: Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Rich Hill, Matt Albers

Minnesota Twins

Key Additions: Mike Pelfrey, SP: 1year/$4MM. Kevin Correia, SP: 2years/$10MM.

Key Losses: Denard Span, Ben Revere, Scott Baker, Matt Capps, Alexi Casilla, Tommy Field.

Key Trades: Acquired SP Vance Worley and P Trevor May from Phillies for OF Ben Revere. Acquired P Alex Meyer from Nationals for OF Denard Span.

Guys, you have no idea how hard it is to write about the Twins. Seriously. I don't know where to start, and I want to finish quickly as possible before I get angry at this organization. I think for the sake of everyone involved, I'm going to keep this short and sweet. They did a lot of nothing this offseason besides trade their outfield away for prospects. They signed free agent pitching that isn't good. Red flags surround this entire team as health is a huge concern. Aaron Hicks will be one of the bright spots for the Twins in 2013. The pitching on this team is completely useless. There. Done.

Aaron Hicks is a diamond in the rough

Catcher: Joe Mauer
First Base: Justin Morneau
Second Base: Brian Dozier
Third Base: Trevor Plouffe
Shortstop: Pedro Florimon Jr.
Outfield: Aaron Hicks, Josh Willingham, Chris Parmelee, Darin Mastroianni, Wilkin Ramirez
Utility: Ryan Doumit, Jamey Carroll, Eduardo Escobar
Starting Pitching: Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Liam Hendriks, Cole DeVries, Scott Diamond (DL)
Relief Pitching: Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Josh Roenicke, Tyler Robertson, Ryan Pressly

Projected Standings

Detroit Tigers 95-67 (first place, AL Central Champions)
Kansas City Royals 88-74 (second place, 2nd Wild Card)
Chicago White Sox 82-80 (third place)
Cleveland Indians 78-84 (fourth place)
Minnesota Twins 62-100 (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)

2013 MLB Season Preview: NL Central

Cincinnati Reds

Notable additions: Shin-Shoo Choo (trade), Ryan Ludwick (re-signed), Jonathan Broxton (re-signed), Jack Hannahan (FA), Cesar Isturis (FA)

Notable losses: Didi Gregorius (trade), Drew Stubbs (trade), Dioner Navarro (FA), Miguel Cairo (FA), Scott Rolen (FA)

The Reds are coming off a 97-win season that ended with a loss to the Giants in the NLDS. Then enter 2013 as the division favorites, or at least as far as I’m concerned. They aren’t without flaws, but they’re nonetheless a fairly well-rounded team with an impressive mix of young and veteran talent. Dusty Baker gets a lot of heat for his tactics, but even he can’t mess this up.

Any conversation about this offense begins and ends with Joey Votto. He’s arguably the best all-around first baseman in baseball, with excellent discipline, power, defense, and eyebrows. He’s the undisputed franchise player. Shin-Shoo Choo will lead off and play center field, which gives the Reds the superb leadoff hitter they’ve desperately needed but hurts them defensively. Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are All-Star caliber players that will join Votto in the heart of the lineup. Zack Cozart provides a very good glove at short, and Todd Frazier will take over full-time at third base with Scott Rolen mulling retirement. Frazier is coming off a good rookie year but I have my doubts he’ll keep up that production. The bench is good but not great. Watch out for center field prospect Billy Hamilton to make a splash this year - he might be the fastest player major league baseball has ever seen.

The Reds play in an extreme hitter’s park but you wouldn’t know it based on their pitching. Johnny Cueto is coming off of his best season and is worthy of being dubbed the staff ace. Homer Bailey and Matt Latos are both #2-level starters, but there’s a drop-off after the top three. Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake are average starters that can eat some innings but neither are particularly good. The team toyed with Aroldis Chapman in the rotation, but ultimately will keep him in the closer role, which frankly does everyone else in the division a favor. Sean Marshall and Jose Arredondo are both very good relievers and Jonathan Broxton was given a big (and stupid) deal to set-up for Chapman, despite declining stuff. 


Catcher: Ryan Hanigan, Devin Mesoraco
First Base: Joey Votto 
Second Base: Brandon Phillips 
Shortstop: Zack Cozart 
Third Base: Todd Frazier, Jack Hannahan 
Outfield: Ryan Ludwick, Shin-Shoo Choo, Jay Bruce, Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul 
Utility: Cesar IzturHAHAHAHAHAHAHA 
Starting Pitchers: Johnny Cueto, Matt Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake 
Relief Pitchers: Manny Parra, JJ Hoover, Nick Masset (DL), Alfredo Simon, Sam LeCure, Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Aroldis Chapman 

St. Louis Cardinals

Notable additions: Ty Wiggington (FA), Randy Choate (FA)

Notable losses: Kyle Lohse (FA), Lance Berkman (FA), Skip Schumaker (FA), Kyle McClellan (FA)

Kozma doing Kozma things.
As much as we would love the Cardinals to go away, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Not only does St. Louis have a deep and talented major league team, but also possess one of the best farm systems in baseball (if not the best). Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, and David Freese all make up for a potent middle-of-the-order, and the combo of Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay form an excellent on-base machine on top of the lineup. If there’s a weakness, it’s injury. Beltran, Holliday, Freese, Jay, and Craig all have injury histories, with Freese already hurt. The shortstop situation is awful, with Pete Kozma forced to start with Rafael Furcal out for the year. Kozma hit well in a tiny sample late last year, but cannot field and certainly can’t hit. He might be the worst full-time player in all of baseball. Fortunately for them, that’s there only real position of weakness. Slugger Matt Adams waits in the wings to play first or the outfield, and uber-prospect Oscar Taveras is likely Beltran’s heir apparent in right field.

The pitching staff isn’t elite but isn’t too shabby. Adam Wainwright performed admirably in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, and is a true ace when he’s right. Jamie Garcia has good stuff but has been a bit of an underachiever during his career. Jake Westbrook is a solid innings-eater who gets tons of ground balls. Lance Lynn had a breakout season last year, though he tired a bit at the end and was briefly moved to the bullpen. Shelby Miller is the team’s top pitching prospect and beat out Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal for the fifth spot, with Kelly and Rosenthal now slated for bullpen duty. Miller has big upside and could join Wainwright as an ace someday, if he improves his control. Veteran Chris Carpenter would normally join Wainwright at the top of the rotation but his career might be over after a myriad of injuries. Despite closer Jason Motte sustaining an elbow injury, the bullpen remains pretty deep. Mitchell Boggs will serve as fill-in closer/eventual set-up man, but frankly it doesn’t matter because pretty much everyone in their bullpen is different shades of awesome, despite employing two lefty specialists for some reason.


Catcher: Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz
First Base: Allen Craig, Matt Adams
Second Base: Matt Carpenter 
Shortstop: Pete Kozma 
Third Base: David Freese (DL) 
Outfield: Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran, Shane Robinson
Utility: Daniel Descalso, Ty Wiggington, Ryan Jackson 
Starting Pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Jamie Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller 
Relief Pitchers: Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate, Mark Rzepchinakskjfkalakfnklasi, Joe Kelly, Fernando Salas, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte (DL) 

Milwaukee Brewers

Notable additions: Alex Gonzalez (re-signed), Kyle Lohse (FA), Tom Gorzelanny (FA), Michael Gonzalez (FA), Michael Olmsted (FA), Yuniesky Betancourt (FA), Burke Badenhop (trade)

Notable losses: Shaun Marcum (FA), Nyjer Morgan (FA), Kameron Loe (FA), Jose Veras (FA), Manny Parra (FA), Tim Dillard (FA)

The Brewers are coming off a bizarre season, where they were pretty awful for most of the season before lighting the planet on fire in September and getting within a game and a half of a playoff spot. The offense was the best in the NL, the bullpen one of the worst baseball has ever seen. The rotation was a revolving door with Zack Greinke traded, Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson injured, and Randy Wolf getting released after a spectacular implosion. This season, they’ll have few questions on offense but a lot of questions on the pitching side.

The offense is expected to have some regression after last season, but is well-rounded nonetheless. Norichika Aoki and Rickie Weeks are solid on-base guys at the top of the lineup, though they achieve it in very different ways (Aoki with hits, Weeks with walks). Ryan Braun is one of the best players in baseball, and is no longer an eyesore in left field. Aramis Ramirez is coming off a career year both offensively and defensively, which is weird considering it was his age-34 season. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is quickly developing into one of the better all-around catchers in the game, though how good his bat really is remains to be seen. The same goes for Carlos Gomez, who finally got enough at-bats to let his power show, but his plate discipline is still an issue. He’s so good defensively that whatever offense he provides is gravy. Jean Segura is the young shortstop who’s kind of a wild card. He also struggles with plate discipline, but has a good hit tool and some power potential. First base is a mess until Corey Hart returns from injury. Former shortstop Alex Gonzalez is expected to fill in, which is only slightly less disgusting than Yuniesky Betancourt playing there. The bench is unsettled with Taylor Green and Jeff Bianchi hurt, but Logan Schafer, Khris Davis, and Martin Maldonado should all be solid backups. Yuni Betancourt still sucks really bad.

The rotation is deep on candidates but low on certainty. Yovani Gallardo is as reliable as a pitcher can get, but he’s the only known quantity. Kyle Lohse should at least be average, but won’t repeat his St. Louis performance. Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers had breakouts last year and are very similar pitchers skill-wise, but Estrada has a little more upside. Wily Peralta is the organization’s top prospect and won a rotation spot in camp. He has #2 starter upside but needs to sharpen his control. Chris Narveson (who’ll start in the bullpen), Mark Rogers (on the DL while he builds up arm strength), Hiram Burgos, Tyler Thornburg, and Johnny Hellweg are potential replacements if one or more starters struggle. The bullpen can’t possibly be worse than last season but is still isn’t terrific. Closer John Axford upped his velocity and developed his slider last year, but his control faltered and he became homer-prone. Jim Henderson will probably set up but I’m making the bold prediction that Brandon Kintzler will take over there at some point. Narveson, Alfredo Figaro, Burke Badenhop, and Tom Gorzelanny provide some length and versatility, which could be key if the young starters struggle to provide innings. Michael Olmsted will start the year in AAA, but is an intriguing power arm who will likely make an impact at some point.


Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy, Martin Maldonado 
First Base: Corey Hart (DL), Alex Gonzalez 
Second Base: Rickie Weeks 
Third Base: Aramis Ramirez 
Shortstop: Jean Segura 
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Norichika Aoki, Logan Schafer, Khris Davis
Utility: Yuniesky Betancourt, Jeff Bianchi (DL), Taylor Green (DL)
Starting Pitchers: Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers 
Relief Pitchers: Alfredo Figaro, Chris Narveson, Burke Badenhop, Michael Gonzalez, Brandon Kintzler, Jim Henderson, Tom Gorzelanny, John Axford 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Notable additions: Francisco Liriano (FA), Jonathan Sanchez (FA), John McDonald (trade), Mark Melancon (trade), Jerry Sands (trade)

Notable losses: Joel Hanrahan (trade), Brock Holt (trade), Rod Barajas (FA), Eric Bedard (FA)

The Pirates have spent each of the last two seasons as a Cinderella team in the first half and a disaster in the second half. They haven’t had a winning season in over 20 years, but there are many people who think this could be the year they break out. I’m not one of those people. The offense is shallow around Andrew McCutchen and the pitching isn’t exactly loaded with reliability. The farm system is loaded but I can’t buy mid-season call-ups greatly altering the makeup of this roster, and certainly not greatly affecting the win-loss record.

The offense seems to be built to "swing and pray". Andrew McCutchen is legit MVP candidate in center field, but after him everyone else is either greatly flawed or bad. Second baseman Neil Walker is good at everything but great at nothing. Pedro Alvarez has titanic power but swings and misses too much and is an unmitigated disaster defensively. Garrett Jones and Travis Snider should be platoon players. Jones’ possible platoon mate, Gaby Sanchez, kinda sucks. Starling Marte and Russell Martin have power but don’t make much contact. Clint Barmes fields great but hits nothing. The defense overall is pretty good, arguably the best in the division. As long as they don’t make Garrett Jones play in the outfield, that is.

A.J. Burnett getting trolled on Opening Day.
The pitching is the team’s bread and butter. AJ Burnett is coming off a fantastic year after being a disappointment in New York. Burnett hasn’t shown the ability to be consistent year-to-year though. James McDonald was a breakout star in the first half of 2012 but couldn’t find the strike zone in the second half and quickly devolved into a mess. Wandy Rodriguez is fine as a third starter, he’s the definition of reliable. Jonathan Sanchez is hilarious. Jeff Locke will hold down the fifth spot until either Francisco Liriano (also kinda hilarious) or Jeff Karstens return from injury or one of the youngsters (Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Kyle McPherson) is ready. The bullpen should be solid. Jason Grilli has resurrected his career in Pittsburgh and will be the closer. His fastball-slider combo has been deadly, though he was a little homer-prone last year. Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Jared Hughes are all promising young pitchers. Justin Wilson and Jeanmar Gomez both lost out on rotation spots but can fill in there if needed.


Catcher: Russell Martin, Michael McKenry 
First Base: Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez 
Second Base: Neil Walker 
Shortstop: Clint Barmes
Third Base: Pedro Alvarez
Outfield: Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Travis Snider, Jose Tabata 
Utility: John McDonald, Josh Harrison 
Starting Pitchers: AJ Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jonathan Sanchez, Jeff Locke, Jeff Karstens (DL), Francisco Liriano (DL), Charlie Morton (DL)
Relief Pitchers: Jeanmar Gomez, Justin Wilson, Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes, Tony Watson, Chris Leroux, Jason Grilli 

Chicago Cubs

Notable additions: Edwin Jackson (FA), Scott Baker (FA), Scott Feldman (FA), Carlos Villanueva (FA), Dioner Navarro (FA), Nate Schierholtz (FA), Scott Hairston (FA), Hector Rondon (Rule 5 pick)

Notable losses: Brain LaHair (FA), Jeff Baker (FA), Chris Volstad (FA), Manuel Corpas (FA), Tony Campana (trade)

The Cubs are in a major rebuild mode, and frankly aren’t even trying to win games. While they are deeper and more talented than the 101-loss team from last year, they still aren’t very good and will probably try to move some of their veterans around the trade deadline to supplement their already impressive farm system. I like some of their major league pieces but they’re just not deep enough to be much of a factor.

The offense is pretty top-heavy. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are both impressive young players with bright futures. Castro has already proven to be a good hitter and should develop some power as he reaches his prime. He’s already shown improvement defensively. Rizzo is a solid all-around first baseman who should have 30+ homer power at his peak. Veteran Alfonso Soriano showed he wasn’t dead yet with a bounce-back season in 2012, and if he waives his no-trade clause he could be a hot trade target. After those three it gets really ugly. Most of the non-Soriano outfielders are platoon types with limited skill sets, and something called Luis Valbuena is starting at third base. Catcher Wellington Castillo has a little bit of potential, but certainly won’t be a star. Second baseman Darwin Barney is a tremendous defensive player but has a noodle for a bat.

Jeff Samardzija had a breakout season in 2012 (his first as a starting pitcher), and has impressive stuff. He may not be an ace but should be a solid #2-level starter. Free agent acquisition Edwin Jackson is solid innings-eater with some decent strikeout ability. Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva fill out the rotation but none of them are particularly inspiring. Scott Baker and Matt Garza are both hurt but will claim rotation spots when healthy. The bullpen is pretty awful. Shawn Camp is a solid workhorse but if he’s their best reliever then there’s a problem. Kyuji Fujikawa was signed out of Japan to likely be the set-up man but there’s no telling what he’ll do. Japanese relievers tend to do well in the States so I imagine he’ll pitch well enough and may even seize the closer role at some point. Carlos Marmol is the current closer but never met a hitter he didn’t want to walk. He allowed 45 walks in 55 1/3 innings last year, which is really a feat to behold. Despite the control problems, he doesn’t give up many hits and gets enough strikeouts to maintain relevance. The Cubs are hoping they can trick someone into trading for him. Hector Rondon is a little interesting and might figure into a leverage role at some point. He’s flashed good strikeout-to-walk numbers as a starter in the minors. Michael Bowden and James Russell are okay but whatever.


Catcher: Wellington Castillo, Dioner Navarro, Steve Clevenger 
First Base: Anthony Rizzo 
Second Base: Darwin Barney (DL) 
Shortstop: Starlin Castro 
Third Base: Luis Valbuena, Ian Stewart (DL) 
Outfield: Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Dave Sappelt 
Utility: Brent Lillibridge, Alberto Gonzalez 
Starting Pitchers: Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza (DL), Scott Baker (DL), Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva 
Relief Pitchers: Hector Rondon, Hisonori Takahashi, James Russell, Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Kyuji Fujikawa, Carlos Marmol 

Projected Standings

Cincinnati Reds (95-67, first place, NL Central Champions)
St. Louis Cardinals (93-69, second place, second Wild Card)
Milwaukee Brewers (84-78, third place)
Pittsburgh Pirates (75- 87, fourth place)
Chicago Cubs (70-92, fifth place)

I think this division is pretty clear-cut. Two really good teams (St. Louis and Cincinnati), one kinda okay team (Milwaukee), and two bad teams with promising futures (Pittsburgh and Chicago). The hip thing to do is suggest that the Pirates might be good or the Cubs might make some noise, but that’s frankly wishful thinking. There should be two playoff teams in this division and not a whole lot of drama after that. 

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)