With Opening Day this week, MLB.com national reporter Anthony Castrovince chatted with fans about the upcoming season. Topics included his outlook for various teams, his thoughts on breakout rookies, as well as his postseason picks.
Anthony Castrovince: Greetings, everyone. And Happy Opening Day Eve. Happy to be here to field your questions and provide something vaguely resembling answers (or at least blind guesses) about the upcoming 2011 season.
Castrovince: Fire away ...
yougo1000: How do you think the Rangers and the Giants will fare on Opening Day?
Castrovince: On Opening Day, specifically? Giants win, 3-1, Rangers win, 7-5. But if you're referring to their outlook for the season ... I'm a bit concerned about the Rangers. Not just because they lost Cliff Lee, but because of the potential lingering effect that C.J. Wilson's drastically increased innings total last season will have on his arm. It will be interesting to see how well Alexi Ogando transitions into his new role, but that obviously hurts the bullpen.
Castrovince: I think the Giants are well-positioned to stay atop the NL West, though it's doubtful that lightning will strike twice regarding the luck they had with the health of their starting staff. Still, getting a full year out of Buster Posey, adding Brandon Belt and a getting possible resurgence from the Big Panda, Pablo Sandoval, could carry them a long way again.
punksroo: What's your take on Manny Ramirez and the Rays?
Castrovince: I still like the Rays. A lot. Defining roles in the bullpen is obviously their biggest challenge, but I think Jake McGee is going to have a big year. Their rotation remains deep, and Jeremy Hellickson is poised to put up Rookie of the Year numbers. Manny? There are lots of positive reports on him this spring, but that doesn't mean much. We won't truly know if Manny is ready to be a team player until we watch the first couple months of the season play out. But if nothing else, he can provide lineup protection for Evan Longoria.
sevarb26: Do you think the Braves have it in them to compete against the Phillies this season?
Castrovince: Absolutely. The Braves are my pick to win the National League East. I like their depth. I like the balance of youth and veterans in the rotation. I like the Dan Uggla addition. And, to add to all of the above, I'm really concerned about the mounting injuries to the Phillies. The Phils' four aces can carry them a long way in the postseason, but they have to get there first. ...
cardsfans4: How will the Cardinals do this year without Wainwright?
Castrovince: Not as bad as some might expect, especially if injuries keep impacting the Brewers and Reds. If Chris Carpenter and Jake Westbrook stay healthy and Jaime Garcia is legit, the Cards will contend. But if they don't make the playoffs, it will be caused by combination of Wainwright's absence and some major defensive issues -- mostly at shortstop and in right field.
punksroo: Who are your picks for AL and NL Rookies of the Year?
Castrovince: In the AL, I've got Jeremy Hellickson, and in the NL, I've got Craig Kimbrel. Could have just as easily gone with Belt.
fantasyroy: Which rookie will put up better numbers, Michael Pineda or Kyle Drabek?
Castrovince: I think they're both capable of putting up strong peripherals, but Drabek will probably post more wins because of a better supporting cast.
punksroo: In your opinion, who are the sleepers out there who have a breakout year?
Castrovince: I like Jordan Zimmermann in D.C. I like Kila Ka'aihue in K.C. (even if he were terrible, I'd like him for his name). Cameron Maybin could finally break out. Colby Rasmus will break out. And I like McGee, who I mentioned earlier.
Bay_Area110: Do you think the Yankees will reach the postseason?
Castrovince: Yes. It's easy to fret about their rotation, but when you have those kinds of resources, you can always patch the potholes.
sachem9: Do you see anyone of the A's starters like Trevor Cahill with a shot at the AL Cy Young?
Castrovince: The A's rotation is the reason I've picked them to win the West (knowing full well injuries and the offense could make me look like a fool ... but looking like a fool has never stopped me before). I think Gio Gonzalez might have the most upside of anybody on that staff, and there were good reports about him this spring.
zmun: Do you think league-wide pitching will be as strong this season as last or will hitting return?
Castrovince: Last year was dubbed the Year of the Pitcher, but this one has already started to look like the Year of the Injury. Hitting will bounce back, but keep in mind that the game has evolved to the point where speed and defense supersede the long ball.
yougo1000: For the opening days of the season do you think the loss of Brian Wilson will effect the Giants?
Castrovince: I don't see how it could not. There's still a lot of talent in that bullpen, but the confidence that comes with having a proven arm in the ninth is difficult to replace.
643DoublePlay: Who do you think will win the N.L. Central division? There are so many good teams there.
Castrovince: I have a hard time picking against the Reds because of their depth in rotation options and getting a full year out of Volquez. I also think Stubbs and/or Bruce will really break out to add another layer to the lineup. But that's a really intriguing division right now, with four legit teams in the mix.
643DoublePlay: Do you think the Red Sox will trade Papelbon by the break?
Castrovince: "Shipping Out FROM Boston?" It certainly wouldn't be a shock, given the brutal spring he's had and the availability of other options.
zmun: I see you pick the Braves to win the NL east. You're not worried about Chipper staying healthy and a rookie 1B with no power. Also Uggla is very good but he's not Howard as a cleanup hitter?
Castrovince: Admittedly drinking the "Chipper will stay healthy" Kool-Aid. Freeman has enough surrounding him in this lineup to mature at a normal pace, and Heyward will have a big year if he's healthy.Like I said, I like their rotation ... and I'll take their lineup over that of the injury-riddled and lefty-leaning Phils.
cardsfans4: Will Pujols sign with the Cardinals after the season?
Castrovince: Cards fans will hate me for this, but as crazy as it might seem in the present day, not signing Pujols might be best for the long-term outlook for that franchise. He'd take up much too high a percentage of their future payroll.The Cards have gotten the best 10 years of Pujols' career at a discount. I think they'd be overpaying for the next 10. If he's adamant about chasing every last dollar, no way they can afford him. We'll see how committed he is to that franchise.
vielay: What do you think about the Roster of the Indians ?
Castrovince: Just not enough there to compete in 2011. Really concerned about LaPorta's future at first and also about Sizemore returning to the player he was. And the rotation is almost completely unproven. Tribe fans should be excited about the likely debuts of Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Alex White this year.
sachem9: It's looking like Carl Crawford will be hitting 3rd in the Red Sox lineup. Do you think that's a good fit for him with all the strong bats they have?
Castrovince: I think you could slot Crawford just about anywhere and that lineup is going to generate a ton of runs.
Bay_Area110: How do you rate Blue Jays chances of reaching a wild card spot?
Castrovince: I don't see it this year. But as those young arms mature, look out for the Jays in 2012. I love the direction that team is headed in.
braves4710: Hey Anthony, if there was a team you had to pick to look out for in the NL, who would you choose?
Castrovince: As I wrote in my column earlier this week, the Marlins might be the NL's surprise team in 2011. They have a rotation that doesn't get much hype but stacks up well. And with Stanton, Morrison, Sanchez and Coghlan, their lineup is capable of big things. That said, they can't afford injuries and poor defense to derail them, as they have this spring.
Castrovince: All right, folks, let's do one or two more here before I sign off...
vince516: Think the O's will get to .500 this year?
Castrovince: I wouldn't rule it out, but you're betting on a lot of "if come" in that young rotation. In any other division, they might surprise some people. But ultimately, there's more talent in New York, Boston and Tampa Bay ... and possibly Toronto, too. But Buck and Co. have that club pointed in the right direction for 2012 and beyond.
Castrovince: Last question ...
yougo1000: Who do you think will be in the playoffs this year?
Castrovince: If you want to know what probably WON'T happen, mark down my picks. ...
Castrovince: AL: Red Sox, White Sox, A's, Yankees (wild card); NL: Braves, Reds, Rockies, Giants (Wild Card); Boston over Atlanta in the World Series; Book it, then burn it.
Castrovince: Thanks for taking part in today's chat, everybody. Had a lot of fun, though I was a bit surprised at the lack of Bruce Springsteen questions. I'm sure we'll do this again down the road. Enjoy Opening Day.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.