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Why the Tigers Will Beat the Rangers in the ALCS

The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers are set to square off in the ALCS after claiming Division Series wins. They finished the regular season with the second and third best record in the American League, with Texas edging Detroit by one game at 96-67 compared to the Tigers 95-68.

They took different routes to getting past their first round opponents, but rain and a long series has both teams in line to throw their aces in Game 1.

The Tigers captured the regular season series 6-3, but who will win the American League pennant and head to the World Series?

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Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers Is MLB’s 2011 NL MVP

Ryan Braun is this year’s NL MVP.

Other players might be in the discussion, namely Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton, but at the end of the season Braun should be adding to a trophy case that already contains Rookie of the Year and three Silver Sluggers.

Braun, who is hitting .332, trails NL Leader Jose Reyes by just one point.

He leads the National League in On-Base plus Slugging percentage (OPS), baseball’s best measure of offensive output, at .987.  He’s one of just three plays in the senior circuit with at least a .400 On-Base and .550 Slugging Percentage (Kemp is just outside with a .399 OBP).  Only Votto (.985) is within 20 points of Braun.

Braun has put together such an incredible OPS through a balanced offensive attack. A patient slugger, he’s walked enough that his On-Base is 70 points over his impressive batting average.  He has 25 homers, 35 doubles and five triples, giving him 65 extra-base hits already – more than any of his potential MVP counterparts except for Upton (68).

Currently leading the league in runs with 93 and sitting fifth in RBI at 91, Braun should easily eclipse the century mark in both fields before season’s end.

Among this group, Pujols’s 51 strikeouts are the only total less than Braun’s 79.  Fielder (88) is the only other player under 100.

Of potential MVP candidates, Braun’s 31 steals trail only Kemp’s 37.  Braun, however, is a more efficient stealer than Kemp, stealing bags at an 86% success rate compared to Kemp’s 82%.  In fact, Braun’s rate is better than anyone in the top 10 in stolen bases except for Cameron Maybin, whose 32-for-37 barely bests Braun’s 31-for-36.

Braun is also the best hitter, and No. 3 batter for a Brewers club that has opened up an impressive 8.5 game lead in the NL Central.  The magic number to clinch their first division crown since 1982, when they were in the American League, is 16.  So with 23 games remaining and 24 for the division rival St. Louis Cardinals, any combination of 16 Milwaukee wins plus St. Louis losses will earn them a trip to the playoffs.  If the Braun-led Brew Crew plays just one game under .500 the rest of the way, St. Louis would have to go 19-4 just to force a tie.

The other players have all had tremendous seasons of their own, and each deserves some consideration, but ultimately none stack up to the season Braun has put together.

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Top 10 List of MLB Outfielders: Is Jose Bautista the Best in the League?

Jose Bautista has put together a historical, Ruth-like run since the beginning of the 2010 season, but has that been enough for him to surge past other All-Stars like Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun, or last year’s MVP Josh Hamilton as the best outfielder in Major League Baseball?

Find out here with this list of the Top 10 Outfielders in the MLB.

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2010 MLB Mock Draft: Top 10 Picks

The MLB Draft is like no other entry event in professional sports.  In other sports, most first round picks will make an almost immediate impact for the team’s that select them.  In baseball, earliest picks might not even see their first Major League action for three or four years.

A draft this season won’t help a team turn around its fortunes next year the way a top quarterback might in the NFL or a point guard could in the NBA. 

The reality is that a team might not know what kind of production they truly get from a draft for a half decade or so, but if a team nails just one draft pick in the MLB they can get a number of impact talents in short order. 

Teams like the Red Sox, Rays, and Twins have maintained success this decade because they have drafted well. The Royals and Pirates are among the worst of the barrel teams because their draft skills have been highly questionable and unproductive.

The following is how the top 10 in the 2010 MLB draft could play out:


1. Washington—Bryce Harper, Community College of Southern Nevada:

No surprise here as Harper has somehow surpassed all of the hype that started swirling around him after his now legendary performance at the Under Armour Power Showcase as a 15-year-old a few seasons back. 

Harper has established one new precedent after another, becoming the first underclassmen to play in the Aflac All-America game before leaving high school early to pursue the game at the collegiate level. 

Juco pitchers and wooden bats couldn’t slow him at all, and he posted one of the most impressive seasons the college ranks have ever seen. He posted a slugging percentage upwards of 1.000 as he slugged 31 homers for CCSN and drove in almost 100 runs in 62 games.  Harper also showed his speed swiping 20 bases.  He spent time catching, playing the outfield and playing some third base in college and his bat projects to be an above average one no matter where he ends up. 

His power will be his calling card as a pro and he could be a truly elite slugger someday for the Nationals.


2. Pittsburgh—Manny Machado, Brito HS (FL)

The Pirates have a lot of holes to fill and there’s no player in this draft that will fill all of them in short order. There has been some call for the Pirates to draft one of the college players who can get to PNC and help in short order, but the best thing for the organization long-term is to draft the player they feel will be the best down the road and Machado is that guy. 

He’ll take longer than a college shortstop like Christian Colon to reach the MLB but this kid could be a very special big league player.  He could be a shortstop who hits .300 annually while also showing average to above average pop and playing a solid shortstop.  Very few shortstops can do it all and Machado could be one of those guys down the road. 

Long-term, he should be able to join Pedro Alvarez on the left side of the infield to form one of the best 3B/SS the MLB has to offer.


3. Baltimore—Jameson Taillon, The Woodlands High School

This one is somewhat of a no-brainer for the Orioles, who like the Pirates, have a lot of holes to fill.  Taillon is a pretty special right-handed pitcher that scouts like as much as a non-college arm EVER and that includes guys like Josh Beckett. 

Taillon has a great pitcher’s body at 6’5”, 225 lbs., and an even better repertoire.  His power-fastball has been clocked as high as 99, and he throws a mid-80s hammer curve ball.  He also works a quality slider and change-up, pitches that could become real weapons as they develop. 

Taillon is a rare-breed and he is head and shoulders above other arms in this draft.  The only negative for the Orioles here is the price tag he comes with as he is said to be looking to surpass Beckett’s seven million dollar big league deal about a decade ago. 

The O’s have gone toe-to-toe with high priced players before (see Matt Wieters) and will be able to draw Taillon away from his Rice commitment at the signing deadline in August.


4. Kansas City—Chris Sale, Florida Gulf Coast

There is a lot of talk that Drew Pomeranz will be the first college arm off the board, but Sale is a better pick for the Royals. 

The Royals haven’t had any significant production from their top pick since Billy Butler in 2004 (though Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have renewed some hope so far this season) and need to find a balance of safety and high-ceiling with their pick this year as fans have to start being concerned that KC will never turn around if they miss on another pick. 

The reason Sale is the pick over Pomeranz are that his actual stuff carries less question marks.  He led Division 1 in strikeouts and walked a minuscule 12 in 83 innings this year.  His fastball and change-up are both plus pitches and his slider is at least average. 

He has ideal height at 6’6”, and plenty of room to grow as he is only 180-pounds.  As he fills out his fastball, which will already be effective at the professional level, could get even better.


5. Cleveland—Drew Pomeranz, Mississippi

When he’s on, Pomeranz has been an effective college pitcher and the Indians need an advanced arm like his that can move quickly and help at the big level. 

There is a lot to like about him including his fastball, which can reach 94, and his 12-to-6 curve that some scouts and coaches have said is near impossible to hit at the college level. 

If a team believes they can correct the biggest concern that surrounds him (4.5 BB/9 this season), Pomeranz could ultimately be a steal at five as he could be in the big leagues by the end of 2011.


6. Arizona—Stetson Allie, Lakewood HS (Ohio)

This is the first spot in the draft where more than one or two players could go.  Arizona has been linked to Deck McGuire by a number of analysts but Allie seems to more up their alley here. 

No player left in the draft will have more of an upside here than Allie and his price tag won’t be enough to scare the D’Backs away.  They’ve been known to go over-slot in the past and dealt with high-profile guys like Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and Max Scherzer. 

Allie has as good a chance as anyone (including Taillon) in the draft this year and would own the best fastball in Arizona’s system, which is pretty impressive given that top prospect Jarrod Parker’s is a plus-offering that sits mid-90s and touches 97. 

Allie has a powerful right-handed arm with a good frame that at worst projects as a knock out reliever.  His fastball can reach 99 and his slider is a devastating high 80s offering. 

Allie has worked to shake the label of just a thrower this year and has honed command to try and become a true pitcher.  He is able to maintain his effectiveness and velocity late into games and once bought out of his UNC commitment would give Arizona some of the most powerful starters in the minor leagues.


7. New York Mets—Deck McGuire, Georgia Tech

The Mets need to develop an arm in short order to help the big club so McGuire makes the most sense here. 

The team has reportedly showed interest in some of the top college bats like Zach Cox or Yasmani Grandal, and even though both will be on the board the Mets will ultimately be pleased that McGuire is still around.  They lack any real depth of pitching in the minor leagues and McGuire’s 4-pitch arsenal and winning reputation pedigree at GT will make him the guy they choose to start to replenish a depleted system. 

He might not have the ace-ceiling of some of the other first round arms but past performance and durability make him a safe bet to have big-league success in the future, something the Mets front office drastically needs from their top choice this year.


8. Houston—Zach Cox, Arkansas

This pick could not work out any better for the Astros as they have arguably the worst minor league system in the MLB.  They lack infield prospects, and the only non-outfielders or pitchers that crack their top 10 prospects are C-Jason Castro and SS-Jiovanni Mier. 

Castro could up at some point this year, but Mier is currently struggling in LoA.  Cox, who is the best pure hitter in the draft, would become the system’s best bat as soon as he signed. 

He’s already shown he can handle a wooden bat hitting .344 as a freshman in the Cape League last summer.  He should be able to handle 3B as a pro but will hit enough no matter where in the infield he ends up.


9. San Diego—Michael Choice, Texas Arlington

The Padres have been linked to a number of hitters, both high school and college, with this pick. 

The hitters left at this point all bring different things to the table and Choice offers the best total package.  He can hit for average and power as he is Texas Arlington’s all-time leader in hitting (.398) and homers (34) and his career was more productive than Hunter Pence’s. 

Choice is already capable of drawing walks even though he’s just 21-years-old and leads the NCAA in bases on balls.  He has the speed to play centerfield and if he can better his routes he will be able to play at the big league level.


10. Oakland—Nick Castellanos, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)

Oakland has been able to develop a number of impressive pitchers over the years, which will allow them to look towards a bat with their earliest picks this year.  Castellanos will come as a surprise to many here because of the A’s history of drafting college players who can move fast. 

Some scouts question whether he’ll truly be a plus-hitter while others believe he has a better than average bat and impact power.  He should transition easily from SS to 3B and the Athletics will hope to develop him as a middle of the order bat.

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Hey Boston Red Sox, Time To Hit the Panic Button (If You’re the Yankees or Rays)

Ten days ago the Red Sox suffered a crushing loss to their arch (and division rival), the New York Yankees.  Losses happen, but this one stung more than most because Jonanthan Papelbon, the team’s surefire closer over the last five seasons hardly looked like a guy who had been to All-Star games and enjoyed playoff success.

He gave up an astounding four runs in just two thirds of an inning.  For the first time in his career as a reliever he gave up two home runs in one inning and left Red Sox fans wondering if 2010 just wasn’t their year.

Why were fans so concerned in mid-May with just about 3/4 of the season left?


The Red Sox were looking up in the standings at everyone in the division, and the Rays and Yankees both already had significant leads in the win/loss columns.  The Sox had a team that was supposed to be built on pitching and defense, and early returns were beyond disappointing in both areas. 

With John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Diasuke Matsuzaka each struggling mightily and the defense seeming to kick one ball after another since the team flew north from Ft. Myers, the team showed no signs of a turnaround in the near future.

The next day something changed in a big way. The Red Sox appeared headed for another loss at the hand of the Bronx Bombers following a seven-inning, one-run performance from CC Sabathia.  Flame-throwing set-up man Joba Chamberlain came on and absolutely collapsed.  He gave up four runs in his inning of work and left with the score tied.

When Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth, winning the game in extra-innings seemed like the most realistic option for getting out of New York with at least one victory.  They instead managed to get the future Hall-of-Famer, plating two runs and putting the pressure back on the World Champions.

Papelbon came back through the bullpen doors, and though he looked shaky still, managed to finish the win for the former Boston Americans. 

Fast-forward eight more days and the tune is entirely different in Boston.  Since that incredible come from behind win over the Yankees, the Red Sox are an impressive 7-1 over that stretch.  More impressively, those wins have come against the Twins, Phillies, and Rays; all teams currently leading their divisions.

So just how did a team that looked like they had essentially eliminated themselves turn around their season in a little more than a week?

The team started playing like analysts had predicted in the offseason. 

Clay Buccholz and Jon Lester both ratcheted up their performances, and are currently battling for the team lead in ERA in the low 3s. 

The other members of the staff (excluding Beckett who hit the DL) have all started performing more like the top two guys than AAA pitchers. 

Matsuzaka flirted with history as he carried a no-hitter into the eighth before a flair found its way past an outstretched Marco Scutaro’s glove.  Wakefield did an admirable job filling in for Beckett as he provided the Sox with eight shut-out innings and beat Roy Halladay.  Lackey found his touch and made a quality start in the team’s win over the Rays.

The pitching staff is not solely responsible for the light-speed like turnaround. 

David Ortiz struggled more than any hitter on the team for the first month of the season.  His numbers so far in May are among the best of his career as he is hitting .368 with 9 homers this month. 

The team is also starting to get healthy as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron hit the field for the first time in almost a month this week.  Other hitters are starting to hit, and the plays are being made in the field.

All of this adds up to a message that the Red Sox have sent loud and clear over the the last nine days by going 8-1 overall against four of the MLB’s top six teams: It’s only May, but it might be time to start to panic about how good the team in Boston could really be.

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