There is no way Travis Hafner repeats 2007 - The pressure of the contract negotiations followed by the pressure of the actual big contract weighed on Pronk heavily. He was so poor during the Red Sox series that it got in his head. With a clear mind, Pronk will hit .280 with 35 HR's and 115 RBI.
Franklyn Gutierrez and Ryan Garko become stars - The talk of Winter Haven was certianly not David Dellucci, it was Franky G. The talented Rightfielder raked all spring long and looked like he is primed for a breakout season. There is no platoon for him; he is now an everyday player. We think his offense catches up with his defense. Garko was near or above .300 all year, but didn't drive in as many runs as he should have. He looks thinner this Spring and the ball continues to jump off his bat. With Hafner hopefully getting back into form, Garko will see a lot of pitches and he will be lining doubles into the gaps for the next six months.
The rotation will be a rock - We here at MTAC are no fans of Cliff Lee, but you could do a lot worse as the #5 starter. C.C. and Fausto are the best 1-2 punch in the AL. Jake Westbrook is the model of consistancy and can be penciled in for 15 wins and an ERA around 3.50. Paul Byrd is the master of deception and somehow continues to win games. With Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey, Adam Miller, and Brian Slocum in reserve in Buffalo, the Tribe starters will be money all year.
and the bullpen... - The depth is the envy of the rest of the league. Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez, along with Jenson Lewis will be stellar again. Masa Kobayashi, to be honest, we don't know what to make of him. Jorge Julio and Craig Breslow will not be long for this team. Tom Mastny and Brendan Donnelley will take those spots by mid-season. The issue is still closer Joe Borowski. By June, Betancourt will be closing.
Left Field - Eric Wedge is giving David Dellucci just enough rope to hang himself. We think he struggles out of the gate again, and by June, he's still hitting .215 and is released. Ben Francisco will become the Leftfielder with Jason Michaels getting plenty of AB's against lefties. Make no mistake, Francisco MUST and should be on this team.
Andy Marte - Ugh...did he really make the team? He's lucky the Tribe has such an organizational hole at Third base, or he'd be long gone. Errors in the field will do him in, as well as his long, pull everything swing. This kid is 4A. He's not Brandon Phillips.
The Prediction: Last year, we said 90 wins and missing the playoffs. This year, we say 94 wins and the AL Central Crown. The difference: Too much Tribe pitching depth and the Tigers bullpen is really THAT bad.