it's Time To Start Thinking About Baseball

It's been a fantastic off season so far. While there still may be more action, it's time to start thinking about baseball.

New White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has stated his preference for building his club from within. He plans on using the draft and his farm system to stock his big league roster, rather than buying expensive free agents or trading away prospects. This winter, he has added Jeff Keppinger to help with a glaring hole at 3B. Ultimately, the prospects will have to come through for the club to remain competitive in a quickly changing American League Central.

The biggest loser of the off season? For me, it's Giancarlo Stanton. Will he ever see a quality pitch to hit? If I were facing him, he'd have to chase pitches out of the strike zone. I wouldn't care if I walked him. I think he'll end up chasing those pitches to try and get his numbers. He and his fantasy owners may lose in the process.

Shin-Soo Choo will likely feel the pressure of both his Cincinnati Reds front office and from his celebrated agent as he plays in his "walk year" for the Reds. Choo is a sensitive guy. He takes things to heart. He wants to succeed. He has to just be himself and realize he's on a fantastic team, playing in a fantastic park with some outstanding hitting around him to help. I look for a big year from him-especially in that park.

Kudos for the Minnesota Twins for addressing their most glaring of several weaknesses. They now have a completely revamped starting rotation that will feature Vance Worley and Scott Diamond at the top. Gone are Jason Marquis and Carl Pavano along with Francisco Liriano. The Twins may be able to avoid getting into the bullpen in the 5th inning-a factor that destroyed them.

However, the Twins strengthened their club at the expense of outfielders with speed. Especially glaring will be the stolen bases and defense that will depart with Denard Span and Ben Revere. Now they will have to rely on converted 1B Chris Parmelee and Darin Mastroianni (who does have some speed) to play the outfield.

The value of the addition of Torii Hunter to the Tigers can not be over stated or under estimated. We all moaned last year when they didn't have any real protection in the lineup for Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Now they have Hunter and the return of Victor Martinez. In addition, Anibal Sanchez will be around the entire year. The left field job belongs to Andy Dirks until he gets in Jim Leyland's dog house. An awesome team.

I don't think the Angels will start the season with their existing bullpen. They now have an amazing lineup with speed and power. They have a fantastic defense. Their starting pitching is thin in my opinion. I still think they'll flirt with the idea of bringing in Rafael Soriano. Look, when you've spent that kind of money already and you have a gazillion dollars coming in from television, why not finish your team? I'm just sayin.

The Dodgers still have pitching to deal. Chris Capuano could fetch a pretty good infielder or even a catcher. I think they'll do more before the season begins.

I was really pleased with the way Nick Swisher handled his introductory press conference in Cleveland. I believe his joy and enthusiasm to be genuine and I think he wants to be there. I credit Terry Francona with making him feel wanted and orchestrating a tremendous recruiting effort. Swisher will help. But the Tribe still needs pitching. Badly. And no, I don't think Chris Myers is the answer. I'm hoping he will eat innings and keep teams out of the bullpen early. Other than that, we're talking Derek Lowe II.

Surprises this off season? One is the New York Yankees and former catcher Joe Girardi being satisfied with a catching corps of Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine. I think they'll really miss Russell Martin.

When will the business with the trading of Justin Upton end? When he's traded. If he lasts that long, I don't see how they will keep him after this contract expires. How would you like your bosses constantly indicating they are waiting for a good offer and then they'll get rid of you? I don't get the psychology of the entire matter. Way, way too public. You want to trade him? Fine. Don't shop him publicly at every opportunity.

The Boston Red Sox are in limbo with the Mike Napoli situation. Again, why was that announced well before it became official? A bad hip? Hips are crucial to hitting mechanics. Yikes. I still think they'll get it done, hip or not. If not him, who?

I think the ball will be flying off the Green Monster when Ryan Dempster pitches in Boston.

If Jose Bautista is healthy? Oh my goodness. Encarnacion, Reyes, Melky and on and on. They haven't played any games yet, but I really do like the Blue Jays.

And I really do think the Rays will greatly miss James Shields. And no-I don't see how the Rays start the season without Wil Myers in the outfield. But they're the Rays. They've done it many, many times before. But, hey guys-you just gave up James Shields.

But you know what? It's really hard to criticize the Rays front office. They know what they're doing with their limited resources. I have changed my mind 3 times already on what I think they'll do with Myers.

I may have a couple more off season blogs prior to the beginning of Spring Training. I hope you'll stop by and give them a read. Remember-Spring Training games start in late February this year because of the World Baseball Classic. During Spring Training my regular column, Bernie On The Scene will return to I will be sharing my scouting thoughts during those spring columns.

Hope you will follow me on twice a week in the Voices section. Also on twitter @BerniePleskoff.


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