1. Yankees Torre's out, Girardi's in, and everybody's a year older, but the lineup remains a threat to top 900 runs again. Even as Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi battle for playing time, four other hitters figure to top 30 VORP, and nobody's an easy out. The real focus will be on the remade pitching staff, where Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain (71.9 combined VORP projected by PECOTA) will battle inning caps while the Yankee brass fights the temptation to turn them loose to cover for a shaky bullpen. Is Girardi up to maintaining this delicate balancing act?Anyway, the article is free, so you can enjoy or gripe about the rankings to your heart's content. The staff picks go up at BP tomorrow; I'll link back to them here along with a bit more commentary.
8. Brewers As close as last year's Brewers came to reaching the postseason for the first time since 1982, they frittered away their chances with a horrid defense, some bad bullpen management, and abbreviated seasons from Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo. They've addressed the defense and thrown money at the bullpen, and from the outset of the season they'll carry one of the game's most enviable cores of young talent; even with Mike Cameron's 25-game suspension, the top seven hitters in the lineup forecast above 20 VORP. The real key is at the back of the rotation, where they'll need Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva to exceed PECOTA's low expectations.
9. Dodgers Ousted from the Yankees and the perennial two-team battle in the AL East, Joe Torre wound up with the Dodgers in a much wilder NL West. He's got some potential minefields to navigate--a three-injury pileup at third base, and the Andre Ethier/Matt Kemp/Juan Pierre situation in the outfield, which appears may shake out with the Dodgers carrying the league's most expensive fourth outfielder. Beyond that, Torre inherits some of the game's best young talent, including the league's top catcher in Russell Martin, not to mention a pitching staff that blends experience and youth and forecasts to be nearly every bit as good as the unit he'd be guiding in the Bronx if that bug spray had worked.
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