Baseball's Biggest losers - NFL Draft: Safeties

BASEBALL'S BIGGEST LOSERS (SO FAR)...PLUS THE LATEST NFL DRAFT INSTALLMENT AS WE CHECK OUT THE TOP FREE SAFETIES AND STRONG SAFETIES

By Jim Hurley:

No doubt the troubles and turmoil surrounding this year's Boston Red Sox are getting lots of play in the print and electronic media these days - but let's not kid ourself:

The worst out-of-the-gate teams in Major-League Baseball are three teams who might have expected to be pretty bad as exiting Friday's action the Chicago Cubs were a putrid 3-11, the punch-less San Diego Padres were 3-12 and the still-youthful Kansas City Royals were sitting there with the American League's worst mark at 3-10. Ugh!

The question for all three teams is will they be able to get out of their own way the rest of this 2012 season?

Here's some of the answers as we detail some of their early-season woes...

CHICAGO CUBS - The North Siders entered Saturday's tilt against Cincinnati on a six-game losing skid and yet we won't be at all shocked if the Cubbies lose 10, 11 or 12 games in a row a few different times this year. Right now the team ERA is a bloated 5.13 - that's 14th among 16 teams in the senior circuit - and there's really no hope on the horizon unless you happen to believe that RHP Jeff Samardzija (5.71 ERA) and righty Chris Volstad (6.19 ERA) are gonna rescue the back end of this starting rotation that must get 16- or 17-win seasons from Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza just to be able and hang tough. Keep in mind the Cubs' "over/under" wins total for the year was 73 ½ and right now this National League Central the Cubs are on the pace to win right around 35 or 36 games. Ohh, it ought to be a lot of fun in the Wrigley Field bleachers this July and August!

SAN DIEGO - True, nobody expected much from this Padres team that had a preseason won/loss "over/under" mark of 73 games...and so at least Bud Black's crew hasn't disappointed anyone, right? The Pods entered Saturday's home game against Philadelphia on a four-game losing streak and go ahead and check out some of this team's stat lines: San Diego ranks 12th in the NL in team batting average (.211) and the Padres have scored a grand total of eight runs in their last four games including one win in 18 innings against the Phils. Overall, San Diego's 49 runs rank 11th in the league and even the pitcher-friendly Petco Park has not been great for the San Diego hurlers who have thrown to a 3.86 ERA so far this season and that ranks a dismal 10th in the NL. Maybe if CF Cameron Maybin (.167) can get straightened away, than the top of this batting order will be improved but right now it's a sinking ship here with this west coast club...somebody call the Navy!

KANSAS CITY - The Royals had lost eight games in a row while heading into their Saturday night home showdown against the Toronto Blue Jays and while the "over/under" price tag on KayCee was just a touch higher than it was for the Cubs and Padres (see 78 ½ wins) the fact remains this has been a painful start for this AL Central squad. The Royals have scored only 48 runs to rank 11th in the league while popping only 10 dingers to rank 10th in that category and throw into the mix the fact that KC's pitching staff - minus injured closer Joakim Soria for the year - has a team ERA of 4.32 to rank ninth and save for veteran LHP Bruce Chen, the starters have not been good. New lefty Jonathan Sanchez is pitching to a 6.39 ERA and can someone tell us why this early in the year he was pitching on only three days' rest the other night?

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to rock this 2012 Major-League Baseball season and remember there's still lots more NBA Regular-Season Winners too this spring and so sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily/nightly winners. Remember the NBA Playoffs begin next Saturday and you can sign up today for all the winnin' hoops action right through June.

THE NFL DRAFT - TAKING A PEEK AT THE BEST SAFETIES

Our official NFL Draft coverage at Jim Sez continues here as we bring you our position-by-position analyses - now here it's the top Free Safeties and Strong Safeties. Note that we will have our Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft Preview on Wednesday, April 25th. The NFL Draft will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on April 26-27-28:

MARK BARRON, SS, ALABAMA - One of the fastest risers on this year's NFL Draft board, this 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was thought to be someone nabbed in the #20-to-#25 pick area but now there's talk he could be borderline top 10 and so no wonder the Dallas Cowboys (at pick #14) are starting to sweat 'cause they've wanted him all along. Barron is a tough/smart player with great football instincts and insiders say there is nothing to worry about after he underwent hernia surgery earlier this spring. A finalist for last year's Jim Thorpe Award, Barron started 38 games for the Crimson Tide and was considered an on-the-field "quarterback" of this terrific defense. Gut feeling is he will get snapped up by either Carolina at the #9 pick or Buffalo at #10 if the other players those teams are eyeballing are off the board. If the Cowboys want him, they'll have to trade up.

HARRISON SMITH, SS, NOTRE DAME - Note that while Barron figures to be the only safety plucked in Round One, there are still some rock-solid players at the FS and SS spots including this 6-foot-2, 215-pounder from Knoxville. Smith was a two-time team captain at Notre Dame and he brings savvy, leadership and good ball skills to this next level and note last year he registered 90 tackles with 10 pass breakups and note he is the only player in ND history to collect 200 tackles with 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass breakups. Would look for him to go in the middle portion of Round Two and don't be surprised if he's tabbed by either Detroit or Chicago.

GEORGE ILOKA, FS, BOISE STATE - This 6-foot-4, 225-pounder obviously possesses great size and might be used as a cornerback too when facing three-wide receiver sets. The truth is Iloka was a three-year starter for the B-State Broncos (he started 45 games in all) who did it all as he garnered 231 career tackles with 7 interceptions and his ability to change direction at the snap of a finger makes him an intriguing player who could zoom up past Smith into a mid-second-round choice. Some of his critics believe he must show a better on-field attitude but that's probably not enough of a negative to push him below the end of Round II.

BRANDON TAYLOR, SS, LSU - One sports web site claims that this 5-foot-11, 209-pounder could be on the radar screen of either the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets or the Miami Dolphins but the question we have here is did Taylor's rock-solid work at the NFL Combine lift his status from a late third-round choice to somewhere inside the NFL's top 65-to-70 picks? The three-year starter for the Bayou Bengals plays fast and is quick to the ball but doesn't have great speed and - as one scout said - "cannot be trusted" in man coverage if placed on an island. Look for Taylor to go early in Round III and if the Cowboys don't get Barron in the first round than they could be shopping for this SEC star later on.

MARKELLE MARTIN, FS, OKLAHOMA STATE - Here's a top 100 pick guy who could zoom up a few pegs if he's firmly convinced NFL folks that a spring-time knee injury is not a concern. The truth is the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Martin showed great burst in his Pro Day workout while running the 40-yard dash in the 4.6's range and he could be a ground-gobbling guy who deserves a higher overall grade by the draftnik crowd. Let's look for Martin to wind up getting picked in Round III with teams such as Indianapolis and Carolina attempting to fill out their rosters with solid players.

NOTE: Lots more NFL Draft coverage in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez plus stay with us right through the NBA Playoffs for all the hardwood news and notes.

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