AL second-half team previews

July, 14, 2011
7/14/11
12:30
PM ET
As the second half kicks off, our SweetSpot Network weighs in with a quick look at the state of each team and what to expect in the second half.

Boston Red Sox (55-35, +111 run differential)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
The Red Sox come out of the All-Star break with 55 wins and sole possession of first place in the AL East. For the second half, not only do they need to maintain their year-to-date success, but they’ll also need to develop some consistency. Boston is on pace for 99 wins despite six separate losing streaks of three games or more and has won 10 of its past 11.

Top item on shopping list?
Regardless of your opinion on J.D. Drew and Josh Reddick battling for the right-field job, the Sox’s biggest need at the deadline will be a right-handed outfield option off the bench. The roster is left-handed heavy and currently has only Darnell McDonald (.146/.189/.257) to rely on. The team is saying it won’t spend money, so think someone like Reed Johnson, Conor Jackson or Josh Willingham.

Player to watch.
John Lackey. His 2011 has been a disaster and Lackey’s second-half performance (particularly in the playoffs) will have a huge hand in the team’s chance at another title. Lately, Lackey has been Jekyll and Hyde on the mound. His last start against Baltimore was a seven-strikeout gem. The start before that he was shelled for seven earned runs in 2.2 innings against Toronto. The Red Sox hope Lackey is a workhorse they can ride the rest of the year -- especially at $16 million.
-- Darryl Johnston, Fire Brand of the AL

New York Yankees (53-35, +121)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
Get healthy and stay healthy. The Yanks have been reasonably lucky with their not-so-young players, only losing some time to minor injuries. Derek Jeter appears to be fine and healthy, thank you very much, going 5-for-5 to reach 3,000 hits Saturday. Bartolo Colon has more than surprised, but has been a bit shaky coming off the DL. With A-Rod lost for a month, if the team can continue to fire on all cylinders as it did when Jeter was out, this team could be well positioned for the playoff push. It will be up to Joe Girardi to make sure the team is fresh and rested. No easy task, to be sure.

Top item on shopping list?
The most discussed thing is "pitching, pitching, pitching" but it's been well documented that very few difference-making starting pitchers will be available. With Boone Logan not doing what LOOGYs are supposed to do, it would behoove the front office to try to land a lefty who can get out key lefties. Besides that, a super-utility guy to fill in for the injured A-Rod and giving Jeter a rest every so often might be nice to have, but only if the front office truly has little faith in Eduardo Nunez. Personally, I'm excited to see if Nunez can blossom with this opportunity.

Player to watch.
Given his history as a hot second-half player, one could point at Mark Teixeira. Tex has had an impressive first half, posting 25 HRs and 65 RBIs, but his slash line (.245/.353/.522) is below his career slash line (.283/.375/.535). A more typical second half (.299/.388/.569) would be a welcome sight. The guy I am looking at with hopes of a big second half is Nick Swisher. Over his last 28 games, he has taken great steps forward, batting a robust .309/.410/.580 with five of his 10 home runs. If he can come back from the break and maintain that momentum, this team will be just fine. And lastly, the pitcher to watch is Phil Hughes. If he can rediscover his velocity and control, the Yanks' worries about their rotation dissipate.
-- Jason Rosenberg, It's About the Money

Tampa Bay Rays (49-41, +37)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
The Rays are hanging around in the AL East race despite being in the bottom half of the league in runs scored. The Rays' offense is being dragged through the race by a dominant starting rotation and a surprisingly talented bullpen. If the Rays are going to make a run, they need two bats. There is a chance that prospects Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings can provide some offensive help (perhaps finally filling the hole in left field) but if the Rays want to contend, they may need to look for a bat outside of the organization.

Top item on shopping list?
The Rays' unusual approach to roster construction makes them both buyers and sellers. I wouldn’t be surprised if they added a bullpen arm or a bat -- they have been rumored to be interested in Heath Bell and Colby Rasmus. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they traded a key piece away such as B.J. Upton or James Shields, both of whom are available for the right price. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they both acquired a bat or bullpen arm AND traded away a key piece in the process. The only thing that is certain is that the Rays will not acquire any players destined for free agency this winter because their business model does not include rental players.

Player to watch.
Wade Davis. At this point, we know what the Rays are going to get from Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. But Davis, who missed his last start before the break with a forearm injury, has been both great and terrible in the first half. If he can match the Rays' big three starters, this team could hang in the race until the bitter end. If he regresses, the Rays may be in big trouble.
-- Mark Heilig, The Ray Area

Toronto Blue Jays (45-47, +10)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
Don't let anything derail the youth movement. With Travis Snider and Eric Thames already playing every day, the only remaining piece of the puzzle is Brett Lawrie. When he's healthy, let him play. Keep J.P. Arencibia playing as long as he is healthy.

Top item on shopping list?
Try to offload some of the arms and/or reclamation projects from the spring -- Corey Patterson, Octavio Dotel, Jo-Jo Reyes. Get something for nothing.

Player to watch.
Snider. Did the stint in the minors correct his swi- ... hold on. There is no need to get cute with this answer. It is Jose Bautista. He is appointment TV, doing things we haven't seen in a long, long time. He got better while the rest of the league got worse. Enjoy the ride.
-- Drew Fairservice, Ghostrunner on First

Baltimore Orioles (36-52, -99)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
It is a little too late to fill the gaping holes on this team and make it competitive. If 93 wins gets a team into the playoffs, the Orioles have to win at over a 70 percent rate to make that happen. Only a handful of teams have ever done that and it is not like the team has been underperforming. The talent just isn't there. What needs to be accomplished in the second half is to have guys like Chris Tillman receive more experience. It would be having Nolan Reimold DH instead of Vladimir Guerrero. As has been true for pretty much over a decade, the All-Star break for Orioles fans is a time to reflect and start looking hopefully to next season.

Top item on shopping list?
J.J. Hardy. Many in Baltimore desire him to sign long-term with the team. He has been one of the few shining performances this season. However, I think he is the ideal player to deal. This is a 28-year-old shortstop whose speed is not really impressive. Hardy is often injured and is currently putting up the best offensive season of his career. How many red flags is that? Yes, the team has no good solution for shortstop, but why does burning $30-40 million on a three-year extension make more sense than getting back a couple of good pieces? If he really is all that important, deal him for a significant piece and then be willing to overpay for Hardy in the offseason.

Player to watch.
Nick Markakis was considered for a short time the next-best right fielder, a player for the decade. He showed a good arm with average defense, a high walk rate, and considerable secondary power output. The first two months saw his offense disappear. Now he has a high contact rate, but he does not show any notable power and no longer earns walks. His range has continued to narrow and players have gotten wise about his arm (which limits the value of a good arm). Markakis is certainly not a bad player, but he is beginning to look like someone who peaked early and is not the franchise cornerstone many thought he would be. The second half should give us more information about what type of hitter Nick actually is.
-- Jon Shepherd, Camden Depot

Detroit Tigers (49-43, -8)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
The rotation. Outside of Justin Verlander's dominance, the Tigers' starting five has been inconsistent at best. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have shown flashes of brilliance but not enough to make Jim Leyland sleep well at night. Detroit needs to find a reliable middle-to-back-of-the-rotation guy and chances are it'll be someone from the minors -- lefty Andy Oliver or Futures Game representative right-hander Jacob Turner.

Top item on shopping list?
Every year Tigers fans would like to see the club make a splash at the deadline and every year they're disappointed. This year will likely play out the same way. However, Dave Dombrowski's bargaining position might be considerably stronger if second baseman Carlos Guillen hits and stays healthy when he returns after the All-Star break. The big question though: Who does Dombrowski offer up in a deal?

Player to watch.
The easy answer is Ryan Raburn, who historically hits close to .300 with power galore in the second half. But the more important player to watch will be All-Star Alex Avila. At the outset of the year, most Tigers observers expected him to split catching duties with Victor Martinez. Avila's emergence at the plate and behind it have made him a de facto full-time catcher. Can he avoid getting worn down, physically and mentally, in the second half?
-- Mike McClary, The Daily Fungo

Cleveland Indians (47-42, +4)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
Even though the Indians have been less than stellar lately, they still entered the All-Star break just a half-game behind Detroit. Every AL Central contender has flaws, so the Indians should still act as if they’re in it to win it. In the second half, they need a more consistent performance from the offense, and improvement from several members of the starting pitching staff. While Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson have been pretty dependable thus far, with Fausto Carmona, Mitch Talbot and Carlos Carrasco it’s been a complete crap shoot. There are alternatives at Triple-A, so that should be a consideration in addition to trades.

Top item on shopping list?
The top items on the Indians’ trade deadline shopping list should be a veteran starting pitcher and an outfielder. A veteran innings-eater could add some stability to the rotation and protect one of the better bullpens in the American League. The Indians are without Shin-Soo Choo for at least six to eight weeks. A veteran outfielder could help the struggling offense, as Austin Kearns, Travis Buck and Shelley Duncan just aren’t cutting it in the everyday role.

Player to watch.
Grady Sizemore. His strikeout rate has been atrocious this season; even a moderate improvement would be a huge help to the offense.
-- Stephanie Liscio and Susan Petrone, It's Pronounced "Lajaway"

Chicago White Sox (44-48, -17)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
The Sox have suffered from incredibly disappointing offensive showings by Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel, Juan Pierre, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn, none of whom have an OPS+ over 82. They need to find their bats, and fast, or get out of the way because, despite being four games under .500, the Sox are still just five games back in the terrible AL Central.

Top item on shopping list?
It sounds like the Sox are getting ready to move Edwin Jackson, if they can find a taker. And why not? He’s frustratingly inconsistent, and the team has five other pitchers who can start. It’s unclear, however, whether there’s any interest around the game for Jackson, who is making more than $8 million. He’s not likely to bring back the kind of outfield help that this club needs, and the club doesn’t have the elite prospects to land an impact bat, either. The best they can probably do is to improve around the margins, by picking up a player like Coco Crisp from the A’s.

Player to watch.
Cuban import Dayan Viciedo, 22, is killing the ball at Charlotte (.325/.374/.535 with 16 homers). He could be a big help if he takes over for Pierre in left field, or the Sox could take a defensive hit by playing him at third over the atrocious Morel. But Ozzie is on record saying he does not want to move any of his veterans to accommodate the youngster.
-- The Common Man, The Platoon Advantage

Minnesota Twins (41-48, -67)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
Trailing in the AL Central standings by 6.5 games, the Twins are going to have to pull out all the stops. While their rotation has been steady and the offense figures to improve as injured players return and Joe Mauer gains strength, the bullpen remains an ongoing concern. With a slim margin for error, this team cannot afford to give away late leads from here on out.

Top item on shopping list?
Assuming the Twins are still considered "buyers" when the deadline rolls around (a 12-game homestand within the division coming out of the break could prove decisive), they will likely be on the lookout for right-handed relief help. Matt Capps has been shaky in the closer spot, Joe Nathan has had an up-and-down campaign coming off Tommy John surgery, and there are no other reliable options to be found in the organization. Names like Heath Bell, Michael Wuertz and Octavio Dotel are sure to pop up on Minnesota's radar.

Player to watch.
The answer here can be no one other than Joe Mauer. The centerpiece of the franchise spent most of the first half on the disabled list and was largely unproductive while on the field. A .327 career hitter, Mauer batted just .243 in 31 games, and he hasn't hit a home run since last September. The Twins need to get a whole lot more from the former MVP if they want to erase their deficit in the standings; perhaps increased playing time at first base will help lessen the load on his balky legs.
-- Nick Nelson, Nick's Twins Blog

Kansas City Royals (37-54, -47)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
Dayton Moore is fond of saying pitching is the currency of baseball. If this is the case, the Royals are bankrupt. Kansas City starters own a 5.13 ERA and opponents are raking to the tune of a .820 OPS, both worst in the league. Unfortunately, there's not much they will be able to do to address the problem. Top prospect Mike Montgomery struggled early in the season and has a 5.18 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 17 Triple-A starts. Indications are he's made progress, but it's likely he won't be in Kansas City until September, if at all in 2011.

Top item on shopping list?
Last offseason, the Royals targeted free agents with high upside and low salaries. Just the sort of thing that should be appealing on the trade market. Melky Cabrera is blocking Lorenzo Cain, who is hitting .313/.379/.529 and playing superior defense in center field for Triple-A Omaha. Jeff Francoeur isn't blocking anyone, has a mutual option for 2012 and has a relationship with Moore that goes way back. The Royals undercut any value they could have had with Wilson Betemit by moving him to the bench. A switch-hitter, he could provide an attractive option for a contender who needs to solve the right-handed side of a platoon equation.

Player to watch.
Mike Moustakas. The consensus top-10 prospect when the season opened, Moose has gotten off to a slow start in the majors. Through his first 25 games, he has a .228/.294/.283 line with just three extra-base hits in 103 plate appearances. Historically, Moustakas has taken a while to adjust as he's progressed and moved to the next level. With the organization focused on 2012 and beyond, the Royals hope he finds his mojo in the second half, which will allow him to enjoy a breakout '12.
-- Craig Brown, Royals Authority

Texas Rangers (51-41, +53)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
Texas is still in the driver's seat in the AL West, but the close-trailing Angels pose a serious threat. The bullpen would benefit from some further patchwork, and the Rangers' offense, though potent in its own right, is arguably still short one outfielder, as the current center-field platoon of Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry is something less than sturdy.

Top item on shopping list?
On the surface, the Rangers' top priority is bullpen help, and they have indeed been connected with various and sundry late-inning arms, from Heath Bell to Leo Nunez to Joakim Soria. However, there are questions about every Rangers starter not named C.J. Wilson and the need for one more mid-to-upper-tier starter may be at the top of Texas' shopping list yet again.

Player to watch.
Nelson Cruz stumbled to an injury-plagued and somewhat disappointing .243/.294/.518 showing in the first half, with good power (20 HRs) but little OBP. If he can more closely resemble the .318/.374/.576-hitting monster of last year during the second half, the Angels may be toast.
-- Joey Matschulat, Baseball Time in Arlington

Los Angeles Angels (50-42, +25)

What needs to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
As it has been almost every year since Mike Scioscia took over, there's a supreme disconnect between the Angels' ability to get hits (seventh in the AL in batting average) and their ability to score runs (12th in the AL with 3.86 runs/game). That's thanks in large part to their abysmal .319 team on-base percentage (ninth in the AL) and nonexistent power (.390 SLG, 10th). The season-long injury to Kendrys Morales has severely hurt this team. Also, they could hurry up and build a statue honoring Dan Haren and Jered Weaver for keeping the club afloat.

Top item on shopping list?
The Angels are actually pretty well locked in at every spot in the lineup, especially since they won't want to take on more salary. They'd benefit from getting rid of Jeff Mathis and letting Hank Conger play every day at catcher. But I understand that Mathis has pictures of Scioscia or something that keeps him in the lineup every other day.

Player to watch.
As the centerpiece to the Angels' offseason, and as the most expensive player on the team, Vernon Wells is going to keep playing. His .183/.224/.303 start through May 9 was followed with a still bad, but not nearly as bad, .270/.280/.539 stretch (with just two walks in 118 plate appearances) since coming off the DL on June 7. Who will perform for the rest of 2011: terrible Vernon Wells or mediocre Vernon Wells?
-- The Common Man, The Platoon Advantage

Seattle Mariners (43-48, -18)

What need to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
The M's aren't really gunning for a playoff berth this year, but a poor showing by Texas has allowed for a tight AL West race. If this team wants to contend, the front office needs to do something about manager Eric Wedge's affinity for the hapless Carlos Peguero, who has arguably the worst plate discipline in the majors.

Top item on shopping list?
GM Jack Zduriencik would love to nab a left fielder with some pop, and he might be willing to deal Michael Saunders in a package for a veteran such as Ryan Ludwick or Luke Scott. Hunter Pence would look awfully svelte patrolling Safeco's left field, though he would command a big return.

Player to watch.
Ichiro, who's hitting significantly worse than ever before, needs to heat up if the M's have any hope of contending into September. Time will tell if the uniquely effervescent outfielder will break out of his slump -- or if his career is quickly winding down.
-- Taylor Halperin, Pro Ball NW

Oakland A's (39-53, -24)

What need to be fixed or accomplished in the second half?
For the A's, the second half is about gearing up for 2012. I doubt, even with the first-half disaster, that the front office will attempt a complete rebuild. It will be the same approach that they've taken in other recent losing seasons: two steps back, one step forward (or at least that's what it seems like). I would hope that the foremost goal would be to move veterans who won't be around next year and give every kid that's even close to ready a REAL shot to play, including Chris Carter.

Top item on shopping list?
The entire outfield and bullpen should be up for grabs, outside of Andrew Bailey. Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp could provide a jolt to a contender, and David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui and even Conor Jackson could be on the move as well. In the bullpen, the A's will receive calls about Brian Fuentes, Brad Ziegler, Michael Wuertz and Grant Balfour, and I expect at least a couple of them to be pitching elsewhere by the end of the month. In return, the A's should be looking for impact bats. With what they're offering, they probably won't be able to find them at higher minor league levels, so they'll likely have to take chances on young kids who they project to be sluggers in a few years.

Player to watch.
We've already graduated one prospect to the majors this year, and the continued growth of Jemile Weeks is what I'll be most focused on. I'll be particularly interested in his plate discipline (he's walked just five times in 129 plate appearances so far) and his defense.
-- Dan Hennessey, Baseballin' on a Budget

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?