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MLB Opening Day 2011: Power Ranking All 30 Opening Day Starting Pitchers

Opening Day is lurking right around the corner and teams are preparing themselves to make a run for the World Series.  Many people always say that pitching is the key to success, and that saying has held true for the past few seasons.  Here is a ranking of all 30 Opening Day starters.                                                                                                                                                            

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Philadelphia Phillies All-Prospect Team: the Best Prospect at Every Position

Ruben Amaro Jr. has been well known to trade away prospects in search of major league talent.  While many believe he is depleting the farm system, there are still many talented prospects around.  Here is a list of the top prospects at each position.                                                                                             

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MLB Spring Training: Breaking Down the 6 Most Intense Outfield Position Battles

Spring Training is finally in full swing, which means the regular season is just around the corner.  For some players, Spring Training is just a time to fine tune their skills before the season. But for others, it’s a chance to earn a spot on a big league roster.

From rookies to free-agent signings, there are many players battling for positions around the majors this spring.  Here is a breakdown of the six most intense outfield position battles.  

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MLB Rumors: Will The Phillies Replace Jimmy Rollins with Jose Reyes in 2012?

Jimmy Rollins has transformed into a huge fan favorite in Philadelphia over the past few years with the team. However, after an increase in injuries and a decrease in numbers, is his time in Philadelphia coming to an end?

Rollins has a lot to prove in the upcoming 2011 season. Known for making his bold team predictions, Rollins might want to focus more on himself this season rather than the team.  

Philly fans are beginning to face the harsh reality that Rollins just might not be what he used to be. After his huge season in 2007 in which he won the NL MVP award, his performances have dropped severely. After a season featuring 20 triples and 30 home runs, Rollins has had only 17 triples and 40 home runs in the past three seasons combined. His speed has also noticeably dropped in the past few seasons.

After a career-high 47 stolen bases in 2008, Rollins has just 48 stolen bases in 2009 and 2010. His run average has dropped severely as well. From 2004-2007, Rollins averaged 125 runs scored per year. From 2008-2010 however he is averaging just 75.  

This is a huge difference for the man who was supposed to set the table for one of the league’s most explosive offenses. This is a major part of the idea of moving Rollins out of the leadoff spot and into the fifth or sixth spot in the offense.

Ironically, ever since Rollins’s numbers have dropped since 2007, the Phillies have won three more NL East titles, two pennants, and a World Series.

So the real question remains: are the Phillies ready to move on and replace Jimmy?

Better yet, are the Phillies willing to replace Rollins with Jose Reyes?

Reyes is a player much like Rollins in many different ways. When comparing stats, Reyes is nearly identical to Rollins in all major offensive categories. While he has slightly less power, he does have more speed than Rollins.  

Rollins has a career average of 37 stolen bases per season, with 47 being his career high. Reyes, on the other hand, averages 58 stolen bases per year with 78 being his career high. Imagine the numbers he could put up if Davey Lopes was still around.

And oh, did I mention that Reyes is five years younger than Rollins?

The only other true factor separating these two All-Stars is their fielding. Reyes has tended to be somewhat of a streaky fielder at shortstop. Reyes averages a few more errors per season than Rollins and has never won a Gold Glove award. Rollins, on the other hand, has three Gold Gloves.   

Again, with Rollins’s contract expiring after the 2011 season, he has a lot to prove to both the fans and the organization in the upcoming year to give it a reason to resign him. Are Philly fans willing to let go of their hometown hero? If that answer is yes, then are they willing to bring in a rival player to fill that role?  

Both these questions will have to be answered after this season, but the Phillies could surprise a lot of people if Rollins has another disappointing season in 2011.     

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MLB Power Rankings: The Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Players for 2011

Spring Training is less than a month away and with that comes the start of many fantasy baseball leagues.  Owners, if your looking to put together that unstoppable team, don’t stress about who are steals and who are busts.  Here is a preview of the top 100 fantasy players for the 2011 season.     

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Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Reasons Ryan Howard Will Re-Enter Greatness in 2011

Ryan Howard’s performances have dropped since 2008 and fans in Philadelphia are starting to become worried.  Howard however has some promising signs of why he can return to the MVP caliber level that he was at a few years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                     

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Philadelphia Phillies: Why a Trade for Joe Blanton Should Be a Top Priority

The Phillies have put together the best pitching rotation is all of baseball.  And yes, this does include Joe Blanton in the fifth spot.

With the signing of Cliff Lee in the offseason, Blanton was pushed to the back of the rotation and became the fifth starter.  This has added unbelievable value to Blanton and the Phillies. 

Blanton is just 30 years of age and has many seasons left in him if he stays healthy.  Out of 30 No. 5 starters last season, just five pitched more than 190 innings, and only Gio Gonzalez of the A’s and Livan Hernandez of the Nationals reached the 200 mark.  Blanton has pitched more than 190 innings in five of his six seasons in the Majors thus far.  Last season was the first time that Blanton did not reach this plateau, because he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career after straining an abdominal muscle late in spring training.

Since joining Philadelphia after the trade deadline in 2008, the Phillies have a .600 winning percentage in Blanton’s starts.  Blanton is 25-14 in his 72 starts with the team.  While Blanton’s number do not make him an outstanding pitcher, they do make him an outstanding fifth starter.

Ruben Amaro Jr. announced last week that moving Blanton is not a necessity anymore, as the team can afford to have all five pitchers on the roster this season.  However, even though they have the top four starters in baseball, there are still some unanswered questions with the lineup. 

Brad Lidge had an impressive finish to the 2010 season by compiling a 0.73 ERA over the last two months of the season, including four scoreless innings in the playoffs.  However, Lidge still is not anywhere near his 2008 perfect season. 

Another question mark is the platoon theory in right field between Ben Francisco, Ross Gload and eventually Dominic Brown.  The Phillies decided to not pursue free agents such as Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez and Jose Guillen.  Using Blanton as trade bait could net the Phillies another solid outfielder who can play on an everyday basis or be used sparingly to give Ibanez, Francisco and Gload a day off every now and then.

Blanton is a very valuable player for the Phillies right now and a deal for him could be pursued by spring training.  If not, watch for Ruben Amaro Jr. to make a deal for him if a team suffers an injury to a top pitcher or to bolster the lineup at the trade deadline. 

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Philadelphia Phillies: Looking Inside the Club for Right-Handed Pitching

Philadelphia’s assistant general manager, Scott Proefrock, said Tuesday through Twitter that moving Joe Blanton is not a necessity for the team at this point in time.  The Phillies have announced that they do in fact have enough salary room to keep the right hander for this season, going against many reports since the signing of Cliff Lee in December.  

Along with this announcement, Proefrock also said that the team is going to look within the organization for right-handed pitching help not only for this season but also for when Blanton does leave.  So what young guys could help them out?

One young guy that can give the rotation an extra boost if needed is Scott Mathieson. Mathieson is 28-years-old and has suffered a few elbow injuries that have set him back in his career thus far.  Even after two successful Tommy John surgeries, Mathieson still throws in the high 90s with good location and command.  He pitched in the Futures All-Star game in 2005 and has been with Philadelphia twice in his career.  While Mathieson has been featured more as a long-relief pitcher recently, he has been a starter throughout most of his time in the minor leagues.  

Another prospect that could make a difference is Vance Worley.  Worley made two starts for the Phillies in 2010 and finished with a record of 1-1 with an impressive 1.38 ERA.  At just 23 years of age Worley has a very promising career ahead of him and he could continue to make a difference as a fill-in spot in the rotation this year and could become a part of the rotation when one of the five leave the team.  

Andrew Carpenter has made three appearances with the Phillies since 2008. Carpenter has great control and features a fastball in the low 90s, a good slider and a split-finger fastball to go with a change-up he’s developed since making his big league debut.  The only downfall for Carpenter is that he has a tendency to record many fly-ball outs which could hurt him in Citizens Bank Park.  

Phillippe Aumount is another pitcher who has been recognized in the Phillies farm system.  Aumount was acquired in the 2009 Roy Halladay trade.  Aumont comes in at 6’7″ and features a hard sinking fastball that tops out around 96 MPH.  He also has a good slider. He attempted to develop a change-up in 2010 but could never get a real feel for it. He has struggled with control, averaging over five walks per nine innings pitched.  If he can regain control over his pitches he could make an impact in the near future.  

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MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Reasons Cole Hamels Could Be Moved Before 2012

The Phillies made a big offseason move this year by signing of Cliff Lee.  With Lee, Halladay, and Oswalt in the rotation, the four and five spots have become somewhat of a lesser importance to the team.  There have been rumors for a few seasons now that the Phillies want to trade Cole Hamels.  Here are 10 reasons why they just may do that by 2012.

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MLB Rumors: Philadelphia Phillies Interested in John Maine?

It was announced yesterday that the Philadelphia Phillies have shown interest in signing right handed pitcher John Maine.  The team has allegedly had discussions with Maine’s agent Rex Gary. 

Maine is a decent pitcher in the back end of rotations.  Over his career Maine has posted a 41-36 record with a 4.35 ERA in 105 starts. 

Maine suffered a major setback when he was removed from just his ninth start last season and missed the remainder of the season after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery.  Maine’s agent reported however that his recovery was going well and that there is no question that he will be ready for Spring Training.

The Phillies have made it clear that they are looking to move Joe Blanton after signing Cliff Lee this offseason.  Blanton is due $17 million over the next two seasons.  Maine on the other hand has made about $six million the past two seasons.  By signing Maine and moving Blanton the Phillies could potentially free up $10 million.

The Phillies have also had other prospects make a few starts the past few seasons but the team is not confident in these young guys contributing to the team just yet. 

Pitchers such as Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley and Nelson Figueroa have struggled in their fill in roles in the starting rotation and the team is looking for a more experienced and proven player to fill that fifth rotation spot. 

If the Phillies were to sign Maine, it would most likely be a one-year deal with a club option for 2012.  Given his track record, Maine would most likely earn around $four million in 2011 which is a deal the Phillies would definitely be able to afford. 

Let’s not forget either that Jamie Moyer has already said he is looking to make a return in 2012 and the Phillies could pursue a one year deal with him after the season so any long term deal with Maine is out of the question. 

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