Colorado Rockies

On Feb. 14, I took a look at catchers. Now, let’s preview the first basemen.

Which first baseman should go off the board first?

Chris Davis (BAL) – Davis exploded last season, hitting 53 home runs, knocking in 138 runs and posting a solid .286 batting average. His on-base plus slugging percentage was a very high 1.004, just behind Miguel Cabrera. Last year’s success doesn’t mean he is going to do it again in 2014, but he seems like he is seeing the ball better at the plate. The power has always been there for Davis, but now the average is going up. Sure, you could go with Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and be fine, possibly even better, but I am all in for Davis as the number one first baseman.

Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?

Albert Pujols (LAA) – Unfortunately for me, Pujols was my first-round pick last season, and he had the worst season of his entire career last year in a limited 99 games due to his plantar fascia in his left foot. However, this is Pujols we are talking about here, who is one of the best baseball players of all time. He will aim to turn things around in a big way in 2014. The fact that some fantasy experts rank him as low as 10th at his position is a rare site. Pujols should provide great value, especially when you can draft him later than he is used to being drafted in previous years. Also, look out for Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers.

Don’t sleep on this guy

Justin Morneau (COL) – In December, Morneau signed with the Colorado Rockies. Let me repeat that. Morneau just signed with the Colorado Rockies. This means he will be in a lineup with Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki, Wilin Rosario and Dexter Fowler, all good hitters. This also means Morneau will be playing 81 games in Coors Field where the air is thin in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado. The ball will travel much further than it will in any other park, so this could very well help his home run numbers. He has potential to be the guy he used to be in Minnesota, and he is going to have a better-than-expected season for the Rockies.

Bound to bust

Allen Craig (STL) – This is going against what I believe in because the St. Louis Cardinals are the gold standard of baseball in my opinion. However, Craig is ahead of guys like David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Trumbo on fantasy rankings out there. I don’t see him being better than those guys this season. He had a great year last year and has performed well in place of Pujols for the Cardinals, but he is being picked among consistent fantasy stars. He may prove me wrong, but I don’t see him being as good as he is ranked or as good as last year.

My Pre-Season Rankings: First Baseman

  1. Chris Davis (BAL)
  2. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)
  3. Prince Fielder (TEX)
  4. Joey Votto (CIN)
  5. Freddie Freeman (CIN)
  6. Albert Pujols (LAA)
  7. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)
  8. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)
  9. David Ortiz (BOS)
  10. Mark Trumbo (ARI)
  11. Michael Cuddyer (COL)
  12. Allen Craig (STL)
  13. Eric Hosmer (KC)
  14. Brandon Belt (SF)
  15. Mike Napoli (BOS)
  16. Justin Morneau (COL)
  17. Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
  18. Victor Martinez (DET)
  19. Mark Teixeira (NYY)
  20. Ryan Howard (PHI)

I’ll leave you with this...

First of all, keep in mind that I left off guys like Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana because I have them as catchers. In addition, I left off Miguel Cabrera. There is no doubt that Cabrera would have been the number one first baseman, but I still have him at third base.

First base is generally a pretty deep position; so don’t feel like you need to grab one in the early rounds, unless of course a stud like Davis or Goldschmidt is available. Good luck.

Each week, Adam will give his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.

Russell Wilson

Stepping into the batter’s box used to be a part of Russell Wilson’s normal routine. The Colorado Rockies drafted Wilson in the fourth round of 2010 MLB Draft.

Wilson had two solid seasons in the Rockies farm system but he had an urge to play football that he couldn’t shake.

Wilson left the Rockies organization in the winter of 2011 and enrolled at Wisconsin to play football.

Wilson had a successful season for Wisconsin throwing for over 3,000 yards, 33 touchdowns and led the Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl.

In the 2012 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks gambled on Wilson.

Many sources didn’t like the Seahawks decision to draft Wilson and Seattle was given an ‘F’ for the selection. At the time, drafting Wilson didn’t make sense, Seattle had just spent $25 million on free agent quarterback Matt Flynn.

But when Wilson stepped on the field, it was obvious why the Seahawks gambled on Wilson. Wilson has a strong arm, functional mobility and great downfield vision.

Those skills led Wilson to a stellar rookie season- 26 passing TDs, 4 rushing TDs, 3,118 passing yards and 489 rushing yards.

Unlike many NFL players, Wilson didn’t suffer through a sophomore slump, he followed his rookie season with an equally impressive 2013 season- 26 passing TDS, 1 rushing TD, 3,357 passing yards and 539 rushing yards.

As Wilson prepares for this weekend’s super bowl, the Seahawks can rest easy, their gamble paid off.

 

Peyton Manning

For Manning, it’s been a clear cut path to NFL success. Son of NFL great Archie Manning, Peyton has football in his genes.

Manning was a coveted high school recruit who chose to play for the Tennessee Volunteers. Manning played all four years for the Vols.

During his senior season, Manning threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns. Manning was awarded the Davey O’Brien award and the Johnny Unitas Award.

Manning was picked first overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft.

During his 13 seasons with the Colts, Manning won four MVP Awards, appeared in two super bowls and won one.

Now, with the Denver Broncos, Manning has an opportunity to win his second Super Bowl in his third appearance.

 

Two Paths Collide

The 12-year gap between Manning and Wilson is the largest age gap between competing Super Bowl quarterbacks in the history of the game.

And while they may have taken different paths to get to this Super Bowl, they have one thing in common - work ethic.

Both quarterbacks are known for being the first ones into work and the last ones to leave.

Wilson has made an impression on the players and coaches in the Seahawks organization.

“Man, around 6:15 a.m. It's hard to beat (Wilson) here,” Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “It rubs off on guys. You don't want to be slacking when you know he's in here getting better."

“Russell is fabulous in everything we have asked him to do. He's done a great job of managing all of the situations, and he's come up big just about every time," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

During his fifteen years in the NFL, Manning has been admired for his hard work.

“Peyton's attention to detail, that's probably what separates him from other guys and other people that have played this game," tight end Julius Thomas said. "Every day, I see how much he prepares, I see the little things that he does to make sure he's on top of his game.”

While Super Bowl XLVIII brings these quarterback’s paths together, this game will also send them in different directions.

For Wilson, his career is still young and with his skill set, this probably won’t be his only Super Bowl appearance. A win would put Wilson among the NFL’s elite.

Manning’s career is at its twilight. This Super Bowl is an opportunity for Manning to silence his critics and cement his place as one of the all-time best NFL quarterbacks. 

Watching Huston Street receive his All-Star invitation

Huston Street picks up his twelfth save of the year Sunday against the Rockies.
Huston Street picks up his twelfth save of the year Sunday against the Rockies.

Huston Street, the former national champion at Texas and current closer for the San Diego Padres, received his first All-Star nomination Sunday while in Denver for a series against the Rockies.


Many felt that third baseman Chase Headley deserved to be the lone representative from the Padres, but with Giants fans stuffing the ballot box and getting Pablo Sandoval into the starting lineup, David Wright was chosen as the backup third baseman -- though, with a .354 batting average and 50 RBIs, he is a candidate for National League MVP -- and there was suddenly no place for Headley.


Street entered the day with 11 saves, and ended it with 12. He has only pitched 21 innings, but this was, as much as anything, a recognition of Street's career. He's 10th among active pitchers with 190 career saves, and finished in the top-10 in the category in his division in 2006 and '09. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in '05. He's only played on two postseason squads, though, so he flies under the radar.

 

Anyways, here's how it went down (Note: I was covering the Padres for MLB.com this past weekend. What timing!):


With trade rumors swirling -- the Mets have called about Street -- I wasn't quite sure what to think when I saw the closer being called into manager Bud Black's office early Sunday.


Then Street came out with a puzzled look on his face, cup of coffee in his right hand, and the media relations guy began waving us over and whispering closely (here's where he's telling me Huston Street just got traded, I thought) and instead I heard the words: "Huston Street just got...


"Selected to his first All-Star game. Don't tweet it yet."


OK, so the secret had to be kept for the next 10 minutes or so. Some of the Padres gathered in front of the selection show on TBS and began watching. With a cellar status in the National League West, they knew there'd only be one of them chosen.


Street stood at his locker, keeping the secret to himself. When a holographic image of himself appeared on the TV screen, his teammates erupted. Shouted Mark Kotsay, "How long have you f***** known?!?"


Embarrassed, Street accepted hugs from his teammates, then expressed how much of an honor -- an unexpected honor -- it was to a very small pack of reporters.


"It's the Midsummers Classic, I grew up watching it. It's overwhelming -- I don't think it's sunk in yet."


Former Rockies teammate Matt Belisle, also a native of Austin, left a yellow note on Street's locker congratulating him. Street pitched for the Rockies for three seasons, amassing 84 saves. He was dealt to San Diego in the offseason, a salary-dump trade from which he harbors no ill will. It's been a tough year for the Padres (30-50), who haven't given Street much of an opportunity to save games. A stint on the 15-day disabled list didn't help, either. Since returning on June 5, Street has eight saves and one win.


"Every year, you're realistic about [his All-Star chances]," Street said. "You know when you have a shot and when you don't. I've had a few years where I thought, 'Maybe this was the year.'"


It never was, not until yesterday.

 

"I told Huston this is deserving, even though he might not have the save totals of other guys, that his career has been indicative of All-Star work," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "There's been seasons where at this point I'm sure he's been in very strong consideration, and to never have been picked is surprising." 

Astros catcher Jason Castro is finally healthy and ready to contribute in Houston.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Opening day is upon us and the Houston Astros will be celebrating their 50th anniversary when they take on the Colorado Rockies on April 6 at Minute Maid Park.

Last season the Astros went 56-106 and finished last in the National League.

The Astros have named five pitchers to the opening rotation.

Left handers Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ, along with right hander Bud Norris, return from last season’s main rotation. Rodriguez and Norris will serve as the backbone of the pitching staff.

Last season Rodriguez turned in a season ERA of 3.49 with 7.82 strikes and 3.25 walks per nine innings pitched. He also pitched an impressive 191 innings last season which should help keep the bullpen fresh. Rodriguez is also the only player or coach who remains from the Astro’s 2005 World Series squad.

Norris’s fastball has helped keep him in the starting position, and while it has slowed to around 93 mph, his control in the past two seasons has kept it effective. He turned in a 3.77 ERA last season.

Happ did not have an impressive 2011 season. Late in the season, Happ was demoted to the Astro’s triple A affiliate Oklahoma City RedHawks. He posted a 5.35 ERA in 2011 and his offseason performance has coaches hoping he will return to his 2009 or 2010 form where he achieved ERAs of 2.93 and 3.40, respectively. Happ is 1-1 in 2012 spring training games.

Kyle Weiland and Lucas Harrell are the new faces on the mound at the start of this season. Both had ERAs below 4.00 in their respective minor league career. Weiland has posted a 2-1 spring training record this season with a 3.75 ERA. As a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2011, Weiland had a 0-3 record on the mound, giving up 22 runs with 13 strikeouts.

Harrell pitched three games for the Chicago White Sox over two seasons. He posted a 1-2 record for the Sox with a 4.71 ERA. Despite injuries, Harrell makes up for his lack of a fast ball with his powerful sinker.

Last season’s pitching staff ranked 15th in walks given up and 14th in hits given up and owned a team ERA of 4.55, lowest in the National League.

The two most productive hitters on the roster last season, outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, both were traded at the end of the season. Jason Bourgeois returns to the 2012 Astros with the highest batting average from 2011 which was .294.

The offense as a whole scored 615 runs, less than the major league average of 694, and was the second straight season under 700. Only four teams had less production at the plate.

Despite this dismal statistic, the 2011 Astros looked pretty good on paper. They ranked first in the NL in doubles, fourth in batting average, and third in total hits. However, they also ranked 15th (out of 16) in home runs and 13th in runs scored. The lack of runs is what hurt last season’s squad.

In the offseason, the Astros only traded out and not in, as far as hitters go. First baseman Carlos Lee will return to the plate as the anchor of the Astro’s struggling line up. Lee finished with a .275 batting average, a team-high 18 home runs, and a team-high 94 RBIs.

Right fielder Brian Bogusevic is also expected to help Lee out at the plate. The former pitcher hit .287 in 2011, but Bogusevic is inconsistent at best against left-handed pitchers.

In addition to trading their top hitters, the Astros also traded their fastest base runners. In 105 games, Bourn stole 39 bases and, after being traded to Atlanta, went on to finish the league with the highest number of stolen bases.

Outfielder Jason Bourgeois, who was second on the team in stolen bases, was traded to the Royals in the offseason.

They are expected to finish about the same in 2012 as they did in 2011 due to the lack of incoming talent.

The 2011 season was the first in franchise history where a squad lost more than 100 games, a statistic that most want to forget. Hopefully the offseason was enough to start the rebuilding process for the Astros as they play their last year in the National League.