MESA - Next year is here.
Or so the Cubs are hoping. They've tweaked and twittered with their lineup. Milton Bradley and Kevin Gregg in, Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood out.
After two straight seasons of being swept in the first round, Cubs GM Jim Hendry has decided his team was too right-handed to break the Billy Goat Curse, and has brought in the brittle Bradley to infuse some lefty life into the right-leaning Cubbies.
Lefty Mike Fontenot will start at 2B and switch-hitting Aaron Miles will also spell the infield, but will all the left-right, fair and balanced lineup in the world help the mounting expectations on the Northsiders to win a World Championship?
But Jake Peavy sure would help. Check back in July on that front.
But for now, some random observations from a recent trip to Arizona, where the Cubs lost four of five games.
WHITE SOX: Jeffrey Marquez, who came over in the Nick Swisher trade, looks rock solid against the Cubs in Las Vegas as he continues to make his bid to be Chicago's fifth starter. Marquez threw three scoreless innings, giving up one walk and one hit, while striking out two. Marquez forced Alfonso Soriano to pop out twice on three total pitches. Look for him in AL only leagues now and a deep sleeper in mixed formats. Also, in deeper AL leagues, keep Gordan Beckham on the radar.
L.A. DODGERS: This team looks very mediocre offensively without Manny Ramirez, although Matt Kemp looks like the top-40 overall pick that most people are predicting. Some of his production depends on where Joe Torre slots Kemp, but against the Cubs, he recorded a single, stole a base and was caught one other time. So far, he's 3 of 5 in spring training SB, and has 2 HR, making another 20-35 campaign not too far fetched.
BREWERS: When you look up and down this offensive lineup, all you see is fantasy studs: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart....shoot, even J.J. Hardy and Mike Cameron are useful mixed-league players. But against Carlos Zambrano, the Brew Crew was quieter than the Bratwurst in the Great Sausage Race. Try to get a piece of this offense if you can. But as far as the pitching staff, outside of Yovani Gallardo, don't waste your time.
RANGERS: Just a fun team to watch. And with Arlington as a pressure-cooker to play in, look for big numbers. Josh Hamilton is the biggest name and has forearms the size of tree trunks, although they're completely tattoed. Hamilton's story is quite inspiring, almost as much as watching him sign for 45 minutes before the game, posing for pictures with anyone who asked. Keep Chris Davis on your round 6-7 radar. And don't reach too high for Ian Kinsler. A 10th overall pick is plenty high enough.
ROYALS: Besides looking very short, Kansas City did very little to stick out. Alex Gordon has a cannon and is promising, but strip away his name and .260-16-59-9 is just not worth a top 150 pick, so don't reach. I tucked Mike Jacobs and his 32 HR 2008 campaign away on one of my auction teams for a buck.