Thursday MLB Schedule
Detroit at NY Yankees 1:05 PM Verlander vs Sabathia
Atlanta at Washington 1:05 PM Lowe vs Hernandez
Milwaukee at Cincinnati 2:10 PM Gallardo vs Volquez
LA Angels at Kansas City 4:10 PM Weaver vs Hochevar
San Diego at St. Louis 4:15 PM Stauffer vs Carpenter
San Francisco at LA Dodgers 8:00 PM Lincecum vs Kershaw
Buckeyes Offensive Players to Watch this Spring
By Brandon Castel
theozone.net I love Brandon's Articles
5 QB Braxton Miller (6-2, 185, Fr.) – If you haven’t heard the name Braxton Miller before, then let us also tell you that Terrelle Pryor is suspended for the first five games of the season. Shocking, right? In fact, Pryor likely won’t even participate in spring football because of the foot injury he suffered in the Sugar Bowl. That leaves the other four quarterbacks to compete for the job, and make no mistake about it, this really is a competition. Five games is a lot of football, and they can’t simply hand the ball to Joe Bauserman and tell him to hold down the fort until Pryor, and Jim Tressel, return. No offense to the others, but Miller clearly has the most talent, but how quickly can he pick up the system? Being at Ohio State for spring practice will be a huge help.
24 RB Rod Smith (6-3, 200, rFr.) – If Miller isn’t the most talked about name heading into the spring, then it has to be Rod Smith. Like Miller, Smith has never played a down at Ohio State, but he has future star written all over him. Not only does he look like Eddie George with his shirt off, but Smith was one of the most productive running backs in Indiana high school history. He brings a different level combination of speed and power than any other back on the roster, and he has been raved about by his teammates since the end of the regular season. Expect Smith to be right there in the competition to replace Boom Herron for the first five games.
4 RB Jaamal Berry (5-10, 200, rSo.) – Everyone is talking about Smith, but Jaamal Berry is a name that should not be forgotten. Unlike Smith, Berry has actually seen time on the field, and he averaged 8.3 yards per carry last season as Ohio State’s fourth-leading rusher. Berry seems to have put injury concerns from his freshman season behind him, and with Herron suspended for five games; this is the perfect opportunity for Berry to step to the forefront. He might look like Jordan Hall from physical standpoint, but they are two different players. Berry has less wiggle, but more burst, and he isn’t afraid to stick his nose in there between the tackles.
80 WR Chris Fields (6-0, 185, rSo.) – Like Berry, Chris Fields was on our list of players to watch last spring, and he didn’t disappoint. If you think back to last year, Fields actually had a tremendous spring. He was one of the best receivers on the team during drills, and even worked his way into the lineup with the first team offense a little bit. But then Taurian Washington had that big spring game, and Corey Brown came on strong in the fall and Fields fell behind both of them. Washington is gone, along with Dane Sanzenbacher, and DeVier Posey is suspended for five games. That leaves the door wide open for fields, who has great quickness and athleticism.
18 WR T.Y. Williams (6-5, 218, rFr.) – It also leaves the door open for a guy like T.Y. Williams, who brings a totally different feel to the wide receiver position. Listed at 6-foot-5, Williams is tall and skinny, but seems to have added a little bulk this off-season. He took a redshirt last year because he wasn’t mentally prepared to play the game at this level, but former receivers coach Darrell Hazell had nothing but good things to say about him. If he has picked up the mental part of playing the position, Williams could be a star on the verge of breaking out.
14 WR Verlon Reed (6-0, 195, rFr.) – There is no indication that Verlon Reed will be in the mix for a starting spot this spring, but he is worth keeping an eye on. A former high school quarterback, Reed had some tough moments adjusting to the wide receiver position last year. He wasn’t much of a route-runner, but once he gets the ball in his hands, Reed has electricity in his feet. He probably wouldn’t beat Corey Brown or some of the other guys in a track meet, but with the ball in his hands, there might not be a faster guy on the roster, except maybe Jaamal Berry.
78 OT Andrew Norwell (6-5, 308, So.) – We got to see a little bit of Norwell last year, as he stepped in for J.B. Shugarts at right tackle whenever his foot problem became too much to bare. Physically, Norwell looks like an upperclassman on the offensive line. He’s big, strong and has a wide base. He played very well as a true freshman last season, and has to be considered the front-runner to play left tackle while Mike Adams is serving his suspension.
79 OL Marcus Hall (6-5, 321, rSo.) – Like Norwell, Marcus Hall saw some good playing time as a freshman behind Shugarts at right tackle. He even started the game against Iowa, and it looked like Hall was on his way to something great. He even competed with Adams and Andrew Miller for the left tackle job last off-season, before academics forced him to take a redshirt. That doesn’t mean Hall’s career is over, far from it. He continued practicing with the team and is back on the field this spring. Expect him to compete for one of the starting spots vacated by Justin Boren and Bryant Browning. Yes, that means he would be playing guard, but Hall is one of the best five linemen on the team and needs to be on the field.
Buckeye Defensive Players to Watch this Spring
Here is a look at some defensive players to keep an eye on as the Buckeyes try to replace seven key seniors on defense, including Cam Heyward, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan and Jermale Hines.
51 DL Joe Hale (6-4, 290, Fr.) – This isn’t a guy we knew much about when he committed to Ohio State, but after seeing him in morning workouts, Joe Hale is definitely someone to keep an eye on this spring. We don’t know exactly where the Indiana native will play down the line, but something about him says he might be in the mix for Jim Heacock this season. Hale has a strong lower body and spent most of his time in the weight room with John Simon. That’s not a bad thing for anyone trying to get stronger. If he’s willing to play inside, Hale could have an immediate impact.
6 LB Etienne Sabino (6-3, 240, rJr.) – One of the most intriguing players to watch this spring will be Etienne Sabino. The last time we saw him was last fall practice, because Sabino willingly took a redshirt last year in order mature enough to compete for a starting spot this season. The Buckeyes have two openings in their linebacking corps after the departures of Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, and Sabino could play either Mike (middle) or Sam (strongside) in 2011. He was a big-time prospect and is a physical specimen, but it will interesting to see how much he grew mentally during last season.
11 LB Dorian Bell (6-1, 230, rSo.) – Another linebacker to keep an eye on this spring is Dorian Bell. We really haven’t seen much of the former five-star prospect since he got to Ohio State, except on special teams last year. He battled some concussion issues, but was arguably their best kick coverage guy in 2010. That is usually what Luke Fickell likes to see from his guys before they step into a starting role. Bell would likely play the Sam linebacker spot if Sabino can settle in at the middle spot. If that doesn’t work, then Storm Klein becomes a guy to keep your eye on at middle linebacker.
5 LB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 210, Fr.) – He probably isn’t going to compete for any major playing time this season, but Ryan Shazier is a talented young football player who could easily be the future at Sam or even Leo (defensive end/linebacker hybrid). He has speed and he comes off the edge well as a pass rusher. Like Hale, Shazier enrolled at Ohio State in January, and should be quick to pick things up this spring. He could factor in on special teams, but more likely just a young freshman to watch for the future.
8 CB Dionte Allen (5-11, 185, Sr.) – Nobody, including the Ohio State coaching staff, can possibly know what to expect from Allen this season. Originally recruited by the Buckeyes out of high school, Allen spent three years at Florida State before transferring to OSU prior to last season. He was a highly-touted recruit, but never played much for the Seminoles, in large part because of injury. Travis Howard would appear to be one of the guys to step in at corner, but Allen should be competing for the other spot.
25 CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 176, rFr.) – Another guy who will be right there in the mix now that Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are gone is Bradley Roby. A redshirt freshman out Georgia, Roby showed a lot of promise last fall despite the fact he wasn’t considered a defensive prospect until his senior year of high school. He is still a bit raw for the position, but has great natural instincts that you look for in a good corner.
2 DB Christian Bryant (5-9, 175, So.) – Bryant is a name we already know and a player we have already seen on the field. He took over for Tyler Moeller at the Star position last season before battling an infected foot, but returned to play big minutes in the Sugar Bowl. The reason to keep an on Bryant this spring is because we don’t know exactly where he’s going to play. Star would appear to be his best position, but there are two openings at corner, which is what Bryant played in high school. If Moeller isn’t out there, then Bryant might be the first-team Star this spring, unless he’s competing for the starting corner spot. It’s hard to think he won’t be one of the 11 guys on the field this fall.
4 DB C.J. Barnett (6-0, 190, rSo.) – The only returning starter on our list, Barnett hasn’t started a game since the win over Miami, when he was lost with a season-ending knee injury. With Jermale Hines gone, Barnett should assume his starting role on the back end of Ohio State’s defense, but it will be important to watch how he looks coming off the knee injury.
21 DB Jamie Wood (6-1, 198, rSo.) – Although the Buckeyes have good depth at safety, there aren’t a lot of guys who will challenge Barnett and Orhian Johnson for one of the starting spots. Jamie Wood is one of the few. A highly-rated prospect out of Pickerington, Wood has the tools to be a good safety at the collegiate level. We haven’t seen a lot of him at the safety spot, but this could the off-season where he makes his move, much like Barnett did last year.
My predictions for 2011: Some safe, several that will surpriseJon Heyman si.com
The only safe prediction for the coming baseball season regards Francisco Rodriguez's $17.5 million vesting option for 55 game finishes. He won't be getting it, the games or the money.
K-Rod was brilliant this spring, and he may well continue that brilliance. But he isn't getting those games. Certainly not from the Mets. Nobody wants to pay more than Mariano Rivera money to another closer, least of all a team that has, shall we say, financial problems.
That was an easy one. Now here are the rest of my predictions for the 2011 baseball season.
Alex Rodriguez will win the American League MVP. He looked like a new man in Yankees camp, sporting a leaner physique while pumping balls over the fence at George Steinbrenner Field and out toward Tampa's busy Dale Mabry Boulevard.
Buster Posey will win the National League MVP. Sure, Albert Pujols could easily take it as he heads toward free agency. And so could his teammate Matt Holliday, who seems fully comfortable a year after signing his own big deal to stay in St. Louis.
But Posey is primed for a monster year with the pressure off after leading the Giants to a World Series championship despite beginning last year in the minors. As one scout said, once Posey learns how to pull the ball, he could be unstoppable.
CC Sabathia will win the AL Cy Young award, and not just because he gave up Cap'n Crunch, is down to 290 pounds or has an opt-out clause to exercise. Sabathia knows that the Yankees need him more than ever, and as is characteristic, he will answer the challenge.
Ubaldo Jimenez will win the NL Cy Young award. It looked like he was well on his way to doing so last year when he ran out of gas. This time, he makes it happen -- though of course it wouldn't surprise anyone to see any of the vaunted four of the Phillies -- especially Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee -- take the trophy.
Angels' first baseman Mark Trumbo will win the AL Rookie of the Year award. He wasn't even supposed to be on the roster, except for Kendry Morales' continuing lower-leg issue. But Trumbo was hot all spring, and if he keeps it going they're going to have to find room for him, even after Morales' return. And the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson will be the AL's rookie pitcher of the year. One scout compared him to no less than Greg Maddux. That's probably a bit of a stretch, but big things are expected for the poised young man.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt will win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Scouts loved what they saw from him in spring. Even if he doesn't make the Opening Day Roster, he is expected to make a difference at some point this season and he's a major threat for this honor. The Braves' Freddie Freeman, another first baseman, is an understandably popular choice. He'll get plenty of chances, since there's no backup plan there.
The Yankees will make the playoffs for the 16th time in 17 years, but they will do it as the wild card. The Red Sox, who will win the AL East, imported Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to replace Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, and just as important, they get Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis back and healthy, giving them baseball's best lineup. They also have a more solid rotation than the Yankees do, though there are understandable concerns in Boston over Josh Beckett's health and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Their bullpen isn't bad, either, with former closer Bobby Jenks, future closer Daniel Bard and current closer Jonathan Papelbon.
The Rays will be better than folks suspect, but it's hard to imagine a bullpen with no names thriving in the AL East. The Blue Jays will get another monster performance from Jose Bautista, and they have to get more out of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind than last year, but the task still looks a bit out of reach for them. The Orioles are much improved but still look like all but a certain cellar dweller even with Buck Showalter managing things from the start.
The White Sox will win the AL Central, with Adam Dunn coming to U.S. Cellular to hit his usual 40 home runs, Gordon Beckham on the cusp of stardom and as solid a pitching staff as any team. As long as the ultra-talented Miguel Cabrera can stay sober, the Tigers loom as a major threat -- though 2012 might be a better year for them, when young pitching phenoms Andy Oliver and Jacob Turner could be ready to help. The Twins almost always outplay the expectations, and it just might happen again, although bullpen concerns are a worry, which is why Chicago's South Side team is the pick here. The Royals will be great, in 2013. And the Indians hope to be.
The Rangers will win the AL West. Their offense is insanely good, and that should be enough. The A's have a very nice rotation led by Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez, but not enough offense. The Angels, long the class of the division, have an imposing rotation, an improved outfield and slugging first baseman Mark Trumbo (six HRs, 20 RBIs this spring), but too many questions (the bullpen, left-handed batting and a leadoff man, to name three). The Mariners look like they have an enviable future with Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley and others, but that fine future probably won't include any part of the 2011 season.
The Braves will win the NL East. It'll be considered an upset by all, but their starting pitching is terrific by any standard except for Philadelphia's, they have not one but two decent closing options in Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters, and while there are defensive questions, at least at second (Dan Uggla) and third (Chipper Jones), Jones looks like he's primed for a big finish, Brian McCann is in the best shape of his career and Freeman and Jason Heyward might both turn out to be megastars.
The Phillies have that fantastic pitching, good enough to justify their tag as World Series favorites. But their spring was an unmitigated disaster. Chase Utley is out indefinitely, Brad Lidge is hurting and so is Placido Polanco. The Marlins have two great players in Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, and maybe a third in young slugger Mike Stanton, and they could pose a threat. The Mets still possess Jose Reyes, for now, anyway. But there's no Johan Santana, at least until July (and quite possibly longer), Carlos Beltran still has a knee issue, there are all sorts of questions about the bullpen, not to mention the pall that's been cast by the Madoff mess and the realization that only nickels remain to spend. The Nationals have a nice lineup but don't have a set closer and have mostly back-end starters filling out their rotation, at least until phenom Stephen Strasburg returns, probably next year.
The Cardinals will win the NL Central despite the loss of ace Adam Wainwright. This is the toughest division to call, but the returning Kyle Lohse and just-promoted Kyle McClellan give them a chance to unseat the defending Central champion Reds in their burgeoning rivalry. Cincinnati looks very good, but late-spring health concerns surrounding Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo bring just enough doubt. The Brewers, who are all in for 2011, have been similarly hit by injury, including the self-inflicted rib cage injury for big winter pickup Zack Greinke, whose love of pickup hoops cost him at least his first few starts. The Cubs got over the early spring scuffle precipitated by overpaid, over-wrought pitcher Carlos Silva, who was dispatched by spring's end, a cleansing that can only help. The Astros are fortunate to be in the same division with the Pirates, who may be only halfway through their drought the way things are going there -- though new manager Clint Hurdle will maintain his smile throughout the continuing rebuilding process.
The world champion Giants will prove that they are no fluke, winning the NL West. The Rockies, who have the best tandem of every-day stars in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, will take the wild card. The Dodgers have very solid pitching and Matt Kemp may finally realize his full potential after a huge spring, but they have too many holes in their lineup in a very difficult division. The Padres still have that great bullpen, but their offense has a chance to regress with A-Gon gone, and their rotation is going to find it hard to duplicate its performance of a year ago. The young Diamondbacks will test their impatient manager, Kirk Gibson.
Anything can happen in October, and my guess is that the Rockies beat the Rangers to win the World Series. How's that for conviction?
Other predictions ...
• Derek Jeter will become the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits, and he'll experience a rejuvenation at the plate. His new stance will be credited for the rebirth, but the placidity brought by his new long-term deal will be the real reason.
• Mariano Rivera will get his 600th save, and finish the year with exactly 601, by saving 42 games (his uniform number).
• Jim Thome will hit his 600th home run, solidifying his spot in Cooperstown.
• Albert Pujols will reach 2,000 hits and 1,000 walks.
• Ivan Rodriguez will play in his 2,500th game (that's an easy one, he'll do it on Opening Day). And he isn't close to being done.
• Not nearly as many managers will be fired as last year. Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez, who received a one-year deal after the long courtship of Bobby Valentine failed, starts the year with the biggest bull's eye on his back, considering owner Jeffrey Loria's annually lofty standards in relation to the team's puny payroll.
• White Sox GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen will continue to bicker in the longest-running soap opera in major league baseball.
• The relationship between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and his bosses, who don't always agree with Cashman on player personnel decisions (see Rafael Soriano) will continue to be among the more interesting ones in the game. And it will continue when Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner/Randy Levine come to a contract extension agreement after the year to keep Cashman in the Bronx for another three years.
• The McCourts will hang on in Los Angeles. It seems that everybody but them wants them out as Dodgers owners, but justice moves slowly, and it'll take at least a year to sort out the mess and boot them from Chavez Ravine to one of their four homes in Holmby Hills or Malibu.
• The better-liked (at least in baseball circles) Wilpons will hang on for a while, too, as the Madoff mess is untangled. The trustee who is suing them won't get his $1 billion, as there's no real proof that the Wilpons knew the score. But their legal bills will run high enough that their ownership won't be secured, either, and they might have to take on an equal partner.
• Pujols will return to the Cardinals with a contract after the season. St. Louis wants to see the market, but will ultimately have no choice but to pay him about $256 million over eight years to keep him at home.
• Prince Fielder will play out the year with Milwaukee and leave for the rival Cubs, who will need to make a splash and give him close to what he wants, maybe $180 million over eight years.
• Jose Reyes will be traded at mid-year when the Mets don't contend. Carlos Beltran (if he's still standing) and K-Rod will go, too. And the new team won't want to give Rodriguez his 55 finishes, either.