Friday, March 19, 2010

Hammel Looking Good for Rockies; Snider Bangs Two for Jays

Players of the Day for Thursday, March 18, 2010 American League There will be plenty of fresh faces in Toronto this season, the franchise going for a youth movement and austerity last season losing most of their best, and highest-paid, players to free agency or trade, the most notable being Alex Rios and Roy Halladay. One of the bright prospects for the Blue Jays actually saw plenty of action last season for Toronto. That would be outfielder Travis Snider who batted .241, with 9 homers and 29 RBI in 79 games as a rookie. In Thursday's 16-hit, 13-3 blasting of the Orioles, the Jays went over the wall six times, with Snider belting two homers and driving in four runs. Teammate John Buck also cashed twice, with Chris Lubanski and Aaron Hill also leaving the yard. For all the high-profile departures the Jays have suffered, they're actually have a nice Spring session, with an 8-5 record, good for 5th place in the Grapefruit League. National League Colorado's Jason Hammel improved to 2-0 for the Spring, giving up 4 hits and one earned run over five strong innings, as the Rockies downed the Mariners by a 9-2 score. Hammel struck out 6 Mariners, giving him an even dozen Ks for the Spring, to go with his very acceptable ERA of 1.93 over 14 innings of work. Last season, Hammel went 10-8 for the Rockies and is expected to be part of the rotation in 2010. MLB Preview: Washington Nationals If anything is for sure entering the 2010 baseball season, it's that the Nationals will not be competitive in the NL East. The last-place Nats were out of the running early in 2009, and, after posting a record of 59-103, not losing 100 games this time around will be a major goal for one of the most-understaffed teams in the league. The Nationals are playing about as well as the politicians are managing the government in D.C., so maybe it's fitting that Americans can point to them as an exemplar of all that's wrong in our nation's capitol. With the addition of rookie Stephen Strasburg, pitching may be Washington's strong suit, though it won't help much if the offense - arguably the least-productive in the majors - fails to produce runs. Strasburg, a phenom drafted #1 by the Nats, can bring it at speeds in excess of 100 MPH, which should provide some thrills for otherwise depressed fans. He joins Jason Marquis, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Scott Olsen on a rotation that has plenty of experience and an overall winning record, though most of those wins belong to Wang and Marquis, primarily earned while they were respectively with the Yankees and Cardinals. Going .500 or better with the Nationals would be quite a feat for any of the starters. The best every-day players are third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and second baseman Christian Guzman. Zimmerman could start on just about any major league team. His 33 homers and 106 RBI were high marks on the team last season. Guzman is a solid hitter but slumped to a .284 batting average last season after hitting .328 and .316 in 2007 and 2008, both with Washington. Joining the team at first base is Adam Dunn, who is good for 30 homers and 150 strikeouts. Josh Willingham, Willie Harris and Justin Maxwell man the outfield posts, which isn't saying much. Aging Ivan Rodriguez will probably play 120 games behind the plate, and the Nationals will experiment with rookie Ian Desmond at short. Should Washington need to close out games (not an ordinary occurrence), Matt Capps is capable, getting saves in 28 of 33 such opportunities in 2009. Washington's odds to win the World Series are a mere 200-1, though certainly better odds, ranging up to 1000-1 can probably be found. Getting to the post-season would be something of a miracle for Washington, so save your money.

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