In honor of NCAA Selection Sunday, and the ever-present seeding system which generates so much debate, how about we do some seeding of our own.
Starting off with who you believe will be the top seeds in the American League at season's end. And yes, we are all well aware that baseball doesn't technically work on a seeding system, but use your imagination.
Here's my first instinct:
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. New York Yankees
5. Texas Rangers
Obviously, I have the Angels winning the AL West. Their pitching is going to be better than the Rangers', and Albert Pujols alone gives them the edge in the division. I like Tigers in the AL Central and the Rays, who have some the best young pitching in baseball, in the AL East. I think the Yankees will barely miss winning the East, but still have at least 95 wins. New York will be the wild card with the best record. The Rangers will sneak into the postseason now that the additional wild card has been added.
If there were such thing as seeding home run hitters, where would you put the power bats in the Orioles lineup? When it's all said and done I'm going to say:
1. Mark Reynolds (35+)
2. Nolan Reimond (29)
3. Matt Wieters (25)
4. J.J. Hardy (23)
5. Adam Jones (22)
6. Chris Davis (20)
I'm predicting Reimold and Davis begin to reach their power potential in 2012, while Hardy and Jones' power numbers decrease a little, though Jones and Hardy both will hit for a higher average in 2012. To me, they both could feasibly be .290-.300 hitters.
What do you guys out there in the blogosphere think?
On a different note: Week two of exhibition games will soon be under way in Sarasota. So far, we've seen some positive signs from the young pitchers I targeted as guys who must step up for 2012. Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz top that list and both have looked healthy and focused so far in camp.
On Saturday, Matusz pitched four scoreless innings against the Phillies. He gave up three hits, struck out four batters and walked none. More importantly, his velocity was up. Matusz's fastball topped out at 92-93 mph, which is a huge improvement from last year, when he was throwing in the mid-80s.
Arrieta was perhaps the most impressive Friday as he dominated the Rays. Pitching pain-free for the first time in years, the 26-year-old was bringing the heat with a 97 mph fastball. As I said earlier in the spring, Arrieta's stuff is undeniable. Now, with the bone spurs removed from his elbow, he could really be effective if he can continue to command his pitches like he did Friday.
Early on, manager Buck Showalter also has to feel good about his bench. Players like Nick Johnson, Jai Miller and Ryan Flaherty are putting up a fight. It's nice to see players battling it out for roster spots. Their stats (which don't mean much in spring training) at least give us an idea of who's willing to step up and grab these roles. O's executive vice president Dan Duquette did a nice job giving Showalter some viable options, talent-wise, to choose from this year.
As innings increase for pitchers and we see a bigger sample size from the bench players, let's see who can find consistency in week two of exhibition games.