Saturday, February 25

St. Louis Cardinals - Built for the Regular Season

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching

Well, their ace isn't half bad - defending Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter anchors the rotation. He'll probably regress somewhat, but that's not really to blame - it was a Cy Young season, after all. Backing him up in the rotation is a former A - Mark Mulder slots in at the 2 hole. His fellow former A (Matt Morris) left for San Francisco.

Behind that, well, that's where things get interesting. Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis - some combination thereof - will take the 3 and 4 spots in the rotation. While evidently these guys are something slightly above league average, I don't see it, I never really have. Yeah, it's personal bias. Nope, numbers won't convince me. I just see them as reliable innings-eaters; there's nothing wrong with that.

It's the final spot in the rotation that presents the most intrigue this season. The eating joke here is way too obvious, but I'm not taking it; Sidney Ponson (Sir Bar Fight, if you will) was signed to a pretty cheap deal this offseason as an insurance policy/possible 5th starter. The risk/reward is slanted fairly solidly in favor of reward; I don't think anybody's expecting much out of him, and if he's reliable when he gets the ball, that's all anyone's going to ask. However, the more intriguing option lies with Anthony Reyes, who's the #41 prospect in Baseball America's Top 100. More importantly, he's the Cards' only representative in said Top 100, so a lot hinges on his success. Will they give him the spot out of camp? I figure he'll get it at some point during the year if it doesn't happen immediately.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Chris Carpenter
2nd: Mark Mulder
3rd: Jeff Suppan
4th: Jason Marquis
5th: Anthony Reyes

Fantasy Value:

Carpenter's rock-solid. Reyes presents some possible long-term value (although not as much as others who are coming up at this time), and Mulder should be better than he was last year. I figure Carpenter's regression will be made up by Mulder's improvement. Suppan and Marquis you can take or leave. Personally speaking, I'd leave.

More Information:
Chris Carpenter

Closer / Bullpen:

Jason Isringhausen is back again as the closer. He'll have - again - an entirely new bullpen around him, not the least of which is new setup man / ex-Mets closer Braden Looper. Ricardo Rincon, Adam Wainwright, and Julio Mateo are ....well, they're the guys I've heard of.

There's not really a whole lot to say about this bullpen. It's LaRussa - he'll use these guys all the time. Randomly. You'll see all these guys a lot.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Jason Isringhausen
8th inning: Braden Looper
7th inning: Ricardo Rincon
Sit. Right: Brad Thompson
Sit. Lefty: Randy Flores
Mop-Up: Sidney Ponson

Fantasy Value:
Saves = value. Looper shouldn't be half bad in a lower-stress role, either, I figure. Not to mention someone random from the Cards' pen always puts together a monster middle relief year. Of course, only worry about that in NL leagues and deep leagues.


Let's start with the guys you know. Albert Pujols is still the offensive class of the NL. Last year, he even started adding speed to his game, which is just sick. Scott Rolen is back from injury, and with any luck (for the Cards), he'll be back to his fantastic offensive ouput.

David Eckstein returns at short and at the top of the lineup. He's got grit, spunk, moxie, whatever sportswriters want to call it. Basically, he's short and in the major leagues. Call a spade a spade. Of course, you could do a lot worse for your everyday shortstop, too. Yadier Molina will be the catcher - yup, he's one of the Molina kids. Their parents will love them in their old age.

Second base is the only spot of interest, really. Juinor Spivey came over from the Nats (originally Brewers), and he'll be the second baseman ... until he gets injured. If/when that happens, Aaron Miles (from Colorado) will start. If both of them go down (don't laugh, this happened in DC last year), Hector Luna will be the starting second baseman. Either way, doesn't matter a whole lot - it's either the 2 hole or the 8 hole anyway, and most likely the 8.

Projected Infield:
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Juinor Spivey
SS: David Eckstein
3B: Scott Rolen

Fantasy Value:
Those corner infielders - they don't suck. Everyone else is position filler - not bad, but not great.

More Information:
Scott Rolen
Juinor Spivey


Juan Encarnacion swung a big year last year into a right field gig (and a likely 6-spot in the batting lineup) at Busch. Not a bad deal - if he performs decently, it shouldn't be a bad signing.

Part of the reason for that is the presence of Jim Edmonds in center. He's getting older, yes, but he still has another year or two in him before his body completely falls apart, I think. Of course, I could be wrong, but he seems like the type of player that when he hits the wall, he hits the wall and just keels over dead. (Then again, given his play in the field, maybe that's not the wisest analogy to use.)

Larry Bigbie is the new left fielder of choice. Poor So Taguchi - almost had a starting job yet again. Still, look for some pretty constant substitutions out here, too.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Juan Encarnacion
CF: Jim Edmonds
LF: Larry Bigbie

Fantasy Value:
Edmonds should be an above-average outfielder; Encarnacion and Bigbie, slightly below. It all depends on how much Edmonds declines, though - he should still have a prime batting spot to get both pitches to hit and runs to drive in, which will help.

More Information:
Jim Edmonds

Extra Stuff:

Simply put, I don't see how anyone can stop these guys in the NL Central again this year. Day-in, day-out, they'll just relentlessly harass you. No doubt that they are the regular season crown jewel of the NL, at least in my book. The lineup is simply too deep, and while the rotation's not spectacular, they know they'll have run support, and way more often than not, that'll be enough to get the job done.

So then the question is what can go wrong between now and then? Well, a couple of pitching injuries. More people going down for the season in the infield (i.e., if Rolen can't go again). I'm still worried about these guys in a short or long series - Carpenter's good, yes, but everyone else ranges from reachable to scary in a playoff situation. They should be safer in a short series (toss Carpenter out there twice and hope for the best), but their last short series wasn't a big test. Of course, they did get bounced by the Astros in their last long series.

These guys pretty much stood pat this offseason, electing only to tinker. While I can hardly fault them for that, I do have to wonder what that means for their postseason hopes.

Thursday, February 23

Washington Nationals: Another Year Wasting Away

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

Inning hogs. That's what the Nationals are fortunate enough to have in their rotation - Livan Hernandez counts for 1 1/2. Cap'n RubberArm should be up to his old tricks this year; his injury and hissy fit seem to be all in the past now, and chances are he'll throw up a good 200+ innings of pretty solid ball. Granted, he's not what you think of when you think "ace", but he pretty much fell off the table in the last month of the season. Were it not for that, his ERA would've been somewhere in the 3.5 range, which is at least passable in the canyon known as RFK.

John Patterson will slot in as a solid #2 now, even if attempts to nastify himself have been, well, rather humorous. Whatever floats his boat, I suppose. He has been working on a changeup to add to his repetoire, and if that goes off as planned, then he'll have quite the arsenal. As for the rest of the rotation, Ramon Ortiz, Brian Lawrence, Tony Armas, Jr., and Ryan Drese will fight over the last 3 spots. This is, of course, until either Armas or Drese - or both - go down to injury. Over/under on that is 3 weeks.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Livan Hernandez
2nd: John Patterson
3rd: Brian Lawrence
4th: Ramon Ortiz
5th: Tony Armas, Jr.

Fantasy Value:

Livan is a solid option; Patterson has a good amount of upside and will probably get drafted above Livan in drafts where people know their stuff. As for the rest - well, it depends on what you want. Lawrence should be a little more reliable than he was in San Diego last year, but that's not saying a whole lot. I wouldn't touch anyone else on the staff, though.

More Information:
John Patterson

Closer / Bullpen:

Well, Hector Carrasco's gone (and with the price of the contact he signed, it's not like the Nats could afford to hang onto him at that price, anyway - they needed backup second basemen), but that doesn't mean the 'pen is going up in flames. Chad Cordero is back - and word on the street is he won't be worked to death this year. Luis Ayala is back, too; Gary Majewski was effective as well. Joining them is Mike Stanton (situational lefty, anyone?). Some other random names (Joey Eischen, some guy they found on the back of a pickup, Jesse Orosco - just kidding, he didn't ever play for the Reds when Bowden was GM) will fill out the 'pen.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Chad Cordero
8th inning: Luis Ayala
7th inning: Gary Majewski
Sit. Right: Joey Eischen
Sit. Lefty: Mike Stanton
Mop-up: Jon Rauch

Fantasy Value:

Cordero was fantastic last year. Ayala will provide solid periphials, but hurt somewhat in the strict K ratios. Beyond that, there's not a whole lot (but there never is in a bullpen unless you're in a deep league).


Well, there's no shortage in the middle infield, that's for sure. We'll hit that last. Anyway, Brian Schneider was resigned - let's hear it for some more league average production. At least he's got a pulse, I suppose. Have to take what you can get sometimes. Nick Johnson - when healthy - should have a pretty good season, all things considered. Power numbers won't be there, but in that stadium, that's true for everyone. Robert Fick (who got a nice contract, for reasons escaping, well, everyone) backs up first. Of course, he's behind Matthew LeCroy (who got a nice contract, for reasons escaping, well, everyone).

The future has arrived at third base, and his name is Ryan Zimmerman. His offense won't be anything to write home about - especially this year - but his glove, by all accounts, is outstanding. Kudos to the Nats for doing something right for once...

...and let's take those kudos away right about now. Jose Vidro slots in as the starting second baseman - and you can bet newcomer Alfonso Soriano (maybe you've heard of him) is a little pissed off about this. As of now, he's "starting" in left field. We'll see how long this lasts. Marlon Anderson (who got a nice contract, for reasons escaping, well, everyone - sense a trend?) backs up at second. Of course, this is actually understandable compared to the clusterfuck that is shortstop. Cristian Guzman - baseball's answer to the Razzies last year - is back, God help the Nats. He shouldn't suck as much as last year (if he does, there will be a literal black hole at short), but just to be safe, the Nats went out and acquired the rotting corpse that is Royce Clayton (who got a nice contract, for reasons escaping, well, everyone - let's hear it for macros!) as insurance. Of course, Marlon Anderson will back both of them up, too. And he'll back up first. And act as emergency pitcher. And coach the team when Frank gets tossed. And serve you ice cold beer. And....

Projected Infield:
C: Brian Schneider
1B: Nick Johnson
2B: Jose Vidro (for the first three weeks of the season)
SS: Cristian Guzman (*gag*)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman

Fantasy Value:

Zimmerman will have some long-term potential. Schneider shouldn't suck, which is about the nicest thing I can say right now. Nick Johnson should be at least around league average when healthy, if not slightly above. Vidro is due to fall off the table at any point now; he scares me a little bit.

More Information:
Jose Vidro
Ryan Zimmerman
Alfonso Soriano


Soriano's in left. Let's get that conundrum out of the way now. We'll see how long that statement is valid. As for right field, Jose Guillen - everyone's favorite headcase - is back. He's actually not half bad.

Center, well, there's where the fun is. Right now (at least according to the official depth chart - which, by the way, has Marlon Anderson backing up in left AND right field. Is there nothing he can't do?), Ryan Church is slated as the starting CF. However, rumors out of training camp are that Frankie likes him some speed, and Brandon Watson at least comes closer to that. Plus, the Nationals have a time-honored tradition of shitting on Ryan Church - why stop now? Ah, if only Brad Wilkerson was around... oh, right, that's the cause for the headache in left. Marlon Byrd and Michael Tucker are also floating around.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Jose Guillen
CF: Brandon Watson (or anyone else not named Ryan Church)
LF: Alfonso Soriano (..let's be honest. Jose Vidro)

Fantasy Value:

Wherever he is, Soriano will at worst be rosterable - he'll either be massively underrated or overrated, and I honestly don't know which right now. Guillen shouldn't be too bad. Church ...well, probably won't play. Watson will provide a little bit of speed, but nothing to write home about.

More Information:
Ryan Church

Extra Stuff:

I can't talk about the Nats too much - I just get kind of pissed off when I see the clusterfuck that has become their bench. Seriously, they have about 45,000 people as backup second basemen - and 5 on the depth chart at RF! That's insane.

They overperformed last year - probably out of a little bit of spite, I'd like to dream. That'd be awesome. They'll regress this year, watch out. Of course, if the pitching staff comes together, they'll be competitive. Right now, their top 2 can run with anyone in the division (which speaks more towards everyone else than it does their top 2), but beyond that it's shaky. If they can put up more runs at home (i.e., manufacture), then they'll stay competitive longer than anyone will give them credit for.

Know what'd help this team? Actual leadership in the front office. An owner. Ye gods. National disgrace, indeed.

Florida Marlins: 15-Seed of the NL

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

First off, sometimes team capsules have themes. This is going to be the first one that has a "I have no clue what these guys are trying to do" theme. This will become incredibly evident (even to me, as I'm looking at their depth chart and going "who are these guys, anyway?") quickly.

Anyway, Dontrelle Willis slates in as the ace - and also as probably the only pitcher you've even heard of on this staff. Beyond that, the races for the other 4 spots (yes, you read that right) are wide open. The youngsters - at least, the "homegrown" youngsters - consist of Jason Vargas and Scott Olsen. Olsen has more upside, although Vargas will possibly be better during this season. Sergio Mitre is the imported youngster; he comes from a good line of Cubs pitching prospects, and as such should at least be serviceable. The only downside to that is that he might be counted on to be 2-hole material; I'm not sure how that'll work.

Fortunately (well, maybe fortunately isn't the right word here), there are a couple of veterans, too. Brian Moehler and Jason Johnson.... well, they're somewhere around league average, if not a little below. They'll serve as innings-eaters, and they will have at least some kind of spot in the rotation, although where that'll be is anybody's guess at this point. It depends on how they want to break things down.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Dontrelle Willis
2nd: Brian Moehler
3rd: Sergio Mitre
4th: Scott Olsen
5th: Jason Vargas
(in the wings: Jason Johnson)

Fantasy Value:

Uh, Dontrelle. That's about it.

Okay, so that's not entirely true - Olsen and Vargas have some potential in keeper / dynasty leagues, and Mitre probably won't suck too badly. Still, those guys scream "NL only" - and I wouldn't touch Moehler and Johnson with a 20-foot pole.

With that being said, here's the projected depth chart right now. My predictions don't go along with it at all, which speaks something. Probably the idea that nobody knows what's going on right now.

More Information:
Dontrelle Willis
Scott Olsen

Closer / Bullpen:

Again with the uncertainty. Joe Borowski will open the season as the closer (for those 15 save opportunities he'll get all year), and beyond that, there's not a whole lot around. Kerry Lightenberg is probably the only other guy you've even heard of - he closed with the Braves a few years ago ('98 and part of '99). Travis Bowyer is fairly highly touted, I suppose (he's way up there on the depth charts). Beyond that? No clue.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Joe Borowski
8th inning: Kerry Lightenberg
7th inning: Travis Bowyer
Sit. Righty: ?
Sit. Lefty: ?
Mop-up: TBD - one of the 10,000 other arms they have at camp, most likely.

Fantasy Value:

Whomever closes - right now, that'd be Borowski, although I have no clue if he'll maintain that spot throughout the rest of the year. I don't think anyone else knows, either. Maybe that's a good thing? I don't know.

More Information:
Travis Bowyer


The good news here is there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is some good potential here - Mike Jacobs comes over from the Mets, where he had a good month to month and a half or so, but that's about it. Pokey Reese was signed as a defensive stopper, as well as a veteran presence on the roster. Not to mention he's not holding anyone back by playing second.

Miguel Cabrera, of course, is back at third. He should serve as the anchor of the lineup, as well as the only known commodity. Josh Willingham slots in as catcher - he's got a good amount of power already, although his glove is evidently in question. Manager Joe Girardi evidently brought him in early to work on his glove, which means that he'll most likely land the job over Miguel Olivo. Hanley Ramirez will start at short; he was a fairly highly touted prospect from the Red Sox (actually, pretty highly touted, although there are a fair amount of doubters, too).

Projected Infield:
C: Josh Willingham
1B: Mike Jacobs
2B: Pokey Reese
SS: Hanley Ramirez
3B: Miguel Cabrera

Fantasy Value:

Cabrera is fantastic - even though his counting numbers (R/RBI) will take a hit due to the anemic offense around him. Willingham will probably be serviceable. Beyond that, I'd stay away from Pokey, and leave Ramirez and Jacobs as exercises to the readers, since I have no clue on either of them myself.

More Information:
Miguel Cabrera
Mike Jacobs
Josh Willingham


The new thing in right field is Jeremy Hermida. He'll be somewhere close to league average this year - which, if you haven't quite sensed the trend yet, I'll repeat it one more time: this'll be above the Marlins standard fare. Eric Reed is in center; he's fast, from what I've been able to find out. Of course, that's about all I've been able to find out. Chris Aguila is the tentative starting left fielder.

Is it worth noting that if for whatever reason Josh Willingham can't hold down the catching spot, they'll probably send his bat out to left field. Food for thought.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Jeremy Hermida
CF: Eric Reed
LF: Chris Aguila ( / Josh Willingham)

Fantasy Value:

Hermida is either late-round fare if you're in a single-season 12-team league, or mid-round fare (possibly earlier) if you're in a keeper league or a deep / NL-only league. As for the rest ... eh, maybe Reed if you really really really really need speed.

More Information:
Jeremy Hermida

Extra Stuff:

So yeah, if you couldn't tell, I really don't know what the Fish are up to this year. There's a ton of youth on this team, and like most young teams, they'll struggle early on. There's a little bit of veteran presence, a couple of studs, and some good prospects. However, with the competitiveness of the NL East, these guys will struggle a lot.

My best guess is they'll suck early on, then come back to make things interesting for everyone else in August and September, if their spirit hasn't been utterly crushed by then.

Of course, I'm blaming all of this on Jeffrey Loria (aka the spawn of Satan in baseball form). Allow me to explain this massive hatred. I'm an Expos fan (well, technically it's the Nats now, but I digress). Have been since '94. After the fire sale in '95, it hurt to be a 'Spos fan. Anyone decent they produced was going to get traded away eventually - what's the point in getting attached to players when you knew they were going to leave?

So in all of this, Loria comes in and takes over ownership of the team. He promptly blows up the TV and radio contracts, leaving the Expos without any sources of revenue, sells off all the good players, then buys the Marlins, leaving the Expos ...well, in the hellish situation they're in today. So of course, I wasn't surprised when he started making demands for a new stadium and threatening to move the team. He won't move the team - he'll just buy another team and sell these guys to MLB again. That's what he does. Good riddance.

(And yes, watching the 2003 World Series was probably the most painful experience in my life.)

Wednesday, February 22

Housekeeping and Other Small Things

Okay, a few minor notes for today:

  • I'm proud to welcome another member into the fold here; from what his work has been previously, I think he'll be posting a lot when football season rolls around. We'll see, though - he might surprise me.
  • I'm still looking for new people to join. Email me at and we'll see what we can get done.
  • I think I'm going to have to average between 4 and 5 capsules a week to be ready for when Opening Day rolls around. Yikes! I'll do my best, though.
I'll try and get the Marlins up today.

Thursday, February 16

New York Mets: Better on Paper ... again

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

You want to talk about a bunch of fun what-if statements? This is your place for them. Again, on paper, this rotation looks pretty good. Pedro Martinez, when he's Pedro Martinez, is one of the best pitchers in the NL. Tom Glavine is slightly above average, Victor Zambrano can be if he's not walking everything in sight (up to and including the batboy), Steve Trachsel is a reliable innings-eater, and Aaron Heilman did a great job last year. Sounds great, right?

But now we get to the ifs. What if Pedro's legs don't hold out? That means Glavine will have to step in. Now you've got an ace who's 1) old and 2) kind of lucked out a little bit. If he regresses, then what? You've got Mr. Walk-o-Matic anchoring your staff. Not too great. Keep on moving down the line to the guy who was out most of last year. Your fifth starter has barely pitched over 100 innings in a season.

Can it work? Yeah, it can. The Hindenburg had a few flights, and zepplins were all the rage for a while. But yeah.... when it falls, oh shit.

Ironically enough, they traded away Kris Benson and Jae Seo, who, they weren't great. Seo was a little better than Benson, but neither were great. What they provided was depth... what they don't have? Yup. Depth. (And Jose Lima doesn't count.)

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Pedro Martinez
2nd: Tom Glavine
3rd: Victor Zambrano
4th: Steve Trachsel
5th: Aaron Heilman

Fantasy Value:
Obviously, Pedro's going to be good stuff. (I don't think the doomsday scenario will happen, but some of it might.) Glavine and Zambrano will probably be passable. Ironically, Heilman might be the second best choice from this crop; Trachsel will only be valuable in deep leagues when you just need a guy who doesn't absolutely destroy your ratios. I use the word "valuable" loosely.

More Information:
Tom Glavine
Pedro Martinez

Closer / Bullpen:

So the Mets made a lot of changes this offseason; quite possibly the most significant was the upgrading from Braden Looper to Billy Wagner. Wagner's one hell of a fireballer and a member of the elite closers and will probably allow the Mets to win a few games that Looper blew last year. There's a ton of confidence -and a ton of pressure - riding with Wagner this time around; Mets faithful are quick to turn, especially on someone viewed as their closing savior.

So who else is in the bullpen? Well, the Mets were active this offseason, bringing in Duaner Sanchez from the Dodgers, Jorge Julio from the Orioles, and Chad Bradford from the Red Sox. These moves bolstered the bullpen - although none of these pitchers were the studs in their respective 'pens. Julio might've come the closest, although he was outsted for B.J. Ryan in the Baltimore closers' role and responded with a horrible season. Bradford is probably the best pitcher of those three, but that's mainly due to his funky delivery. He'll work well in a situational role. Sanchez was the 7th inning man for the Dodgers, at least in theory - Gagne was out most of the year, so he got shoved into a setup role. In addition, he did notch 8 saves, so there's a lot of ex-closing experience out there.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Billy Wagner
8th inning: Jorge Julio
7th inning: Duaner Sanchez
Sit. Lefty: hmmmm.... maybe this is a problem area....
Sit. Right: Chad Bradford (.409 vs. lefties - ouch.)
Mop-up: TBD

Fantasy Value:

Obviously, Billy Wagner's one of the best closers around, and with pitching 81 games in Shea, his periphials will be fantastic, along with his save totals. Julio and Sanchez might be worth taking fliers on, although that's only in deep, deep leagues, and not even until after the regular season starts. They'll get hot for some periods of time, though. Aside from that ... yeah, not much else here. Of course, that's standard fare for the bullpen.


Well, it finally happened. The Mike Piazza Era is finally over. Possibly ironically, they went back to the well of former Dodger catchers and brought in Paul LoDuca. This wouldn't have been a bad signing at all a few years back, but LoDuca is getting old, and even at his peak, he wasn't the offensive tour de force that Piazza was. He was above average for a couple of years, no better.

Kaz Matsui - how the mighty have fallen. When you came over from Japan before the 2004 season, you were touted as the guy who going to be the keystone combination with Jose Reyes for the next 10 years. Now Reyes is quickly turning into a star (albeit one who doesn't walk), and the team couldn't get rid of you to save their life this offseason. You even got moved from short over to second to make room for Reyes to move back to his natural position. Now the team is more or less willing to deal with you, although as soon as they find another second baseman with a pulse, you just might be gone. Inflated expectations? Possibly. But it's also your contract year - are you going to produce?

The corners spots are among some of the best in the game. Like LoDuca, Carlos Delgado also came over from the Marlins from their fire sale du jour (get it while it's hot, kids), and he's had experience working in a pitcher's park. David Wright is already one of the best third basemen in the game; if he's not already a household name (which he should be), he will be after this year.

Projected Infield:
C: Paul LoDuca
1B: Carlos Delgado
2B: Kaz Matui
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: David Wright

Fantasy Value:

It depends all on what you're willing to pay for with these guys. Wright, Delgado, and Reyes are all fantastic (Reyes will give you a huge jump in steals alone). Delgado and Wright will put up some fantastic power numbers. Kaz Matsui, on the other hand, should just find the junk heap. LoDuca might be worth drafting in deeper and NL-only leagues, but that's about it. Studs'n'duds, these guys are.

More Information:
Carlos Delgado
Jose Reyes
David Wright


Well, Carlos Beltran's back. Of course, that's a loaded statement it in of itself. Why? To put it bluntly, he sucked last year - at least compared to what was expected of him. Were the expectations a little too much? Probably; it's hard to move from a hitter's park into Shea and then improve on your numbers from last year. In addition, injuries killed a lot of his speed. He'll probably balance between his '05 and '04 numbers - and if I had to pick a direction, probably a little closer to his '05 numbers. It's close, though. He'll move into center field this year, mainly thanks to the Mike Cameron trade that brought over Xavier Nady (more on him in a minute).

Cliff Floyd is also back - although his last year's 150 games were an aberration. That's the most he's had in any season save 1998; 120 games is probably a more realistic expectation. Even that's a little above his average (which is about 105-115 games). When healthy, though? He's quite a solid bat to have in the lineup. Endy Chavez (or, more likely, one of the two guys in right) will move into left if Floyd is out for any real length of time.

Right field will have the only major new outfield face - Xavier Nady will join Victor Diaz. Ironically, one of the reasons people were happy that Diaz was traded was that it'd give him more playing time. He'll get more, but not significantly so.

More information:
Carlos Beltran
Xavier Nady

Fantasy Value:

Floyd, when healthy, should produce. Diaz and Nady are certainly useful in NL-only leagues, and also in leagues where you have a suitable replacement for their off days.

Beltran... well, Beltran is an interesting story. It all depends on what you expect from him. If you expect a return to 2004 numbers, draft high. If you expect 2005 numbers ... honestly, I'd just avoid him entirely in that case. Worth going after if he falls under value, though.

Extra Stuff:

So remember how I said that the Braves always seem to be greater than the sum of their parts? These guys are always less. It's weird - perennial underachievers, these guys. Ironically enough, everything is perfectly set up for a repeat performance of that sort of thing yet again.

Why? Well, their pitching got a little bit worse, although their bullpen got a LOT better. They'll win games late now. Their offense is worlds better - although 1) it's Shea and 2) Wright might languish back in the 6-hole - or worse, 7-hole. These are significant problems - question marks that might not go away even halfway through the season. When you doubt your staff's ability to go late and effective in games and your offense is mildly handcuffed for half the season, there's reason to be concerned.

Am I overestimating these factors? Yeah, probably. However, I've seen this too often to not have a jaded view of it. Something will happen - it always does.

Minor Format Change

All right, screw it. I'm only linking trades and in the "more info" sections. Finding the names is taking way too long - I'd at least like to have these posts take me under 4 hours to write if I can possibly help it. I don't think that's too unreasonable.

Philadelphia Phillies: Any Pitching Yet?

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

The Phillies still need an ace. As of right now, their ace is someone out of: Brett Myers, Jon Lieber, and Cory Lidle. Not exactly a combination of pitchers to strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters. Their lineup looks to be good, but they'll have to be. Poor Pat Gillick just can't seem to find any luck finding an ace. Lieber didn't have a bad season - 17-13, 4.20 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and was 4-1 in his last 5 starts of the season. It's just probably a little much to count on him to serve as a staff anchor again. Maybe as a 1.5, but not a 1.

The back end of the rotation will be formed by some combination of Ryan Madson, Robinson Tejada, and Ryan Franklin. Of those, Madson has the most interesting story, as he's a converted reliever. It could be interesting to see the potential impact he'll have on games - and possibly just as important, how deep he will be able to perform, especially early in the season. They have a serviceable 6-man rotation (serviceable being about the nicest thing you'll hear about Franklin this year, most likely), so if someone struggles, they'll be sent to the 'pen.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Jon Lieber
2nd: Brett Myers
3rd: Cory Lidle
4th: Ryan Franklin
5th: Ryan Madson / Robinson Tejada

Fantasy Value:

Again, you know how I said that there's a hard time determining an ace? Well, you've got Myers and Lieber as the top 2 draftable people. I'd go with Myers, personally, and let someone else figure out what's going on with Lieber. Lidle wasn't too bad last year, and actually evidently should have outperformed his stats, odd as that sounds. At some point, I'll go into why I said that, but for now, just roll with it. Madson, Tejada, and anyone else, I'd stay away from.

Additional Information:
(Maybe that's a cause for concern)

Closer / Bullpen:

With Billy Wagner gone, Tom Gordon slots in as the new closer for the Phillies. He's spent the last few years working as a setup man for Mariano Rivera in New York, so it's not like he has recent experience in dealing with the pressures of closing. The biggest problem that he'll have is an utter lack of depth in the bullpen ahead of him. The Phillies' potential pitching problems extend beyond the staff. Besides Rheal Cormier and Julio Santana, can anyobdy even name who's in the 'pen for the Phils this year? Of course, whomever loses out on the 5th starter role will get shipped over here to do spot-starting work and function as a long reliever. Beyond that, though? Got me.

In addition, the Phils also acquired some more bullpen help from Cleveland, trading Jason Michaels for Arthur Rhodes. This fixed a couple of their problems: the logjam in center with the acquisition of Aaron Rowand and the need for another arm with the movement of Ryan Madson into the starting rotation.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Tom Gordon
8th Inning: Rheal Cormier
7th Inning: Arthur Rhodes (?)
Sit. Lefty: Good question. No idea.
Sit. Right: Julio Santana
Mop-up: Whomever's left from Madson and Tejada

Fantasy Value:

Obviously, Gordon's going to have some value. Unlike the Braves' closing situation, Gordon is going in as the closer with no real challengers on the horizon. Beyond that, though, Cormier might provide some value. Maybe. Don't hold your breath on that one. Santana's not going to be much help, either. If you're drafting Phillies relievers, you might have bigger problems this season.

Additional Information:
Tom Gordon


Now we get to the Phillies' strength both this year and last. (We'll conviently ignore the fact that David Bell still plays for them.) Ryan Howard came into his own over the second half of last season while Jim Thome was down with an injury. Of course, this caused a serious problem for Phils' general management over the winter break, and they responded in turn by sending Thome to the White Sox for - among other things - Aaron Rowand. (More on him later.) This took care of their logjam at 1B and their utter lack of a decent, reliable CF. This will be Howard's first full season with the big club, and big things are expected of him. Look for him to ...well, perform a little better than he did last year. If he improves against LH pitching (.148 AVG last year), watch out.

Chase Utley slots in as the starting second baseman - and he had a fantastic year, hitting 28 HR with 16 SB. There aren't really any contenders for his spot, and with Howard needing the occasional day off, Utley will probably move over to spell him, leaving some time for Abraham Nunez and Tomas Perez to fight over playing time. There's a battle to watch.

Jimmy Rollins closed on a 36-game hit streak, hitting .402 with 12 SB during the month of September. In short, it was a pretty good season for him - and he's just now turning 27, which is supposed to be the prime year for hitters. He's quietly one of the best shortstops out there - this could be the year he becomes a household name.

Oh yeah - David Bell sucks. Thank you, drive through.

Mike Lieberthal should - no big surprise here - open and close the year as the catcher for the Phils.

Projected Infield:
C: Mike Lieberthal
1B: Ryan Howard
2B: Chase Utley
SS: Jimmy Rollins
3B: David Bell

Fantasy Value:

Run as far away as you can from David Bell. I was unfortunate enough to own him in a 10-team NL only last year, and I'm not making that mistake again. Aside from him, though, everyone else ranges from decent (Lieberthal) to potential stud (Howard) to stud (Utley, Rollins). Draft accordingly - there's a lot of good to be seen in this infield, especially from the MI positions.

Additional Information:
Ryan Howard
Jimmy Rollins


So now I can finally link to the Aaron Rowand trade. Long story short, Michaels and Kenny Lofton are out, Rowand is in. He was certainly passable in his stints with the White Sox; although I doubt he'll bring the speed to the table that Lofton did last year, he should be better than the combination of Michaels/Lofton would've been this year. (I always thought Lofton was playing over his head all last year.) Plus, he only takes up one roster spot.

As has become typical, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell will man the corner spots in the outfield. Abreu was - well, is - one of the more athletic performers in the game today, and as such should be a threat for 30-30 this year. As for Burrell, if he can continue his recovery from an atrocious 2003 campaign, then he should hit over 30 HR again this year. If he regresses, watch out. (Side note: I was burned badly in one of my fantasy baseball leagues, since I owned him for that campaign. I'm slightly biased against him.)

Projected Outfield:
RF: Bobby Abreu
CF: Aaron Rowand
LF: Pat Burrell

Fantasy Value:

Abreu? First-rounder. Definitely. No question in my book. Now, where you'd want to draft Rowand and Burrell depends on what you'd expect of them. Burrell's solidly among the second level of OFs right now, which means anywhere from the 4th to the 8th round, depending on how your draft goes; heck, he might go earlier. Rowand slots in as a good 3rd OF choice, or possibly a spot-starter; I'd figure him for back-ends of drafts in smaller leagues. He'll start in most NL-only leagues.

More Information:
Bobby Abreu
Pat Burrell

Extra Stuff:

It's either ironic or not surprising in the slightest that pitching seems to be the Phillies' biggest question heading into the new season. In addition, one of the oddest things I found out this offseason was that the lower half of the lineup (read: the half that contains David Bell) was horrible, too. I'll see if I can find the information on that in the near future, if someone reminds me of it. I make no guarantees otherwise.

In short, they'll put runs up. Don't worry about that. Worry that they'll put up enough runs to win.. That's what I'd be scared of. All in all, I put them kind of like I had the Dodgers a few years back. They'll suck, they'll go on a roll, and they'll end the season within 5 games of .500. Exciting.

Wednesday, February 15

Atlanta Braves Team Preview: Going for 15?

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

The starting pitching is much more stable than the relief corps. John Smoltz and Tim Hudson anchor a solid staff. Jorge Sosa did fantastic as a fill-in fifth starter last season. It remains to be seen just what he'll do if forced to go above 6 innings a start; his mantra last season was effectiveness in short bursts. John Thomsom is coming off an injury-filled season; if he can come off the injury-filled season strong for this year, then the Braves rotation should be quite solid. Why? Because in all this talk, there's been no mention of Kyle Davies, who's the new rookie du jour for the Braves. The Hardball Times rated Davies 37th in their top 50 prospects of 2005. Too many cooks, not enough broth? Maybe. If they want him to get experience, he might open up the season in the 'pen and move into the rotation if someone gets traded or injured.

Possibly the most intriguing part of the Braves' pitching this is year is the anti-impact of Leo Mazzone. Simply put, he ain't there no more. He went to the Orioles. This will be an interesting year both for Mazzone and the Braves. It remains to be seen how effective the pitching staff will be this time around - honestly, I think that the effect will be there, but the positive effect that Mazzone will have on the Orioles will be much greater than the negative impact he'll have on the Braves. It'll diminish somewhat with time, but everything does.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: John Smoltz
2nd: Tim Hudsom
3rd: John Thomson
4th: Jorge Sosa
5th: Kyle Davies / Horacio Ramirez

Fantasy Value:

So when I wrote this the first time around, I had listed pretty much everyone as draftable, being pretty high on them. Then I remembered that Mazzone's gone. Smoltz is getting old. Thomson's coming off injury. Hudson's going the wrong way with his ratios. Davies is - as of now - unproven. Seems interesting, doesn't it? So this is what I came up with again.

Smoltz is draftable - he's still good. But at some point, he's going to actually get old, and you'll be able to tell. He's nice, but maybe not the dead-on write-the-numbers-in-ink like he was a few years back. He'll be solid, though.

Hudson ... someone will draft him, don't worry, and if it gets late enough or if he comes cheap enough, it just might be you. However, chances are that whomever picks him up might be a little disappointed in the results. I'd only grab him if he falls below expected.

Thomson ... who knows? Could be interesting, probably fairly middle-of-the-road is my guess. Again, I'd be higher on him if Mazzone was around - the same with Sosa. Davies has potential, but my guess is he'll be about average (not bad in deeper keeper leagues, though).

Additional information:
Tim Hudson
John Smoltz
Jorge Sosa

Closer / Bullpen:

The Braves are still looking for a closer as of now; Kyle Farnsworth went to the Yankees for $17 million over 3 years, leaving the Braves without an immediate option. Possible solutions as of now include:

Chris Reitsma, who's done this for the Braves before (although he wasn't terribly successful in the past - hence, the Farnsworth trade).
Oscar Villarreal, who's worked in the Diamondbacks bullpen and came over in the Johnny Estrada trade. There's been some talk about him making a successful conversion to a closer role, but as of now that seems unlikely.
Joey Devine, who looks to be the closer of the future. Closer of the present? We'll see. Right now, it doesn't look terribly likely for 2006 - maybe 2007 or 2008.

Look for the Braves to make a deal for a closer sometime before Opening Day. Otherwise, Reitsma will slot in as the closer for the time being. The Braves have done this sort of thing for years now and been fairly successful. While the team looks weaker than it has before, we've been saying that for years. For myself, I'll believe it when I see it.

As for the rest of the bullpen, Lance Cormier and the previously mentioned Oscar Villarreal came over in the Estrada trade. Joey Devine will be somewhere in the 'pen - probably the inning that Reitsma doesn't cover. Mike Remlinger looks to be the situational lefty. Most everyone that's in the bullpen is going to be rookies, so the pressure will be on the starting pitching to perform well. They should be up to the task.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Chris Reitsma
8th Inning: Joey Devine
7th Inning: Oscar Villarreal
Sit. Lefty: Mike Remlinger
Sit. Right: ? Unknown - one of the many rookies
Mop-up: The extra starter (they have 6) - probably Horacio Ramirez

Fantasy Value:

Of the Braves' pen, look for value from the closer - whomever that may be. There's a good
chance both Reitsma and Devine will see closing action over the course of the season. Which one will be cheaper? Depends on the league - Devine should be a couple of bucks cheaper / couple of rounds later, more than likely. Dynasty / deep keeper leagues might not see him. All the same, I'd go after Reitsma - but only if you have to. There are way safer plays than this bullpen.

Catchers / Infielders:

There were no shortage of changes in the infield between 2005 and 2006. Rafael Furcal signed with the Dodgers for $39 million over 3 years, leaving the Braves without a starting shortstop. Their response? Trade stud third base prospect Andy Marte to the Red Sox for Edgar Renteria, simultaneously solving two problems. Renteria had a subpar season in 2005; part of it could have been nerves, part of it could have been a league change. Personally speaking, I figure that Renteria will return closer to his 2004 season totals than his 2005 totals - the league change should help him out. Of course, the defense might not be spectacular, either. Chipper Jones is willing to move back into the outfield, citing - I believe - injury concerns as his reason for not wanting to move. Can't hardly blame him - they have enough people to play in the outfield.

On the right side of the infield, Marcus Giles slots in again as the starting second baseman. With the departure of Julio Franco to the Mets, Adam LaRoche will be the main first baseman for the Braves. Pete Orr (I think) will fill in at both second and first base in case of injury / days off. Wilson Betemit will look to fill in at short and third in case of days off (or for whatever reason, Chipper needs to move to the outfield). There was some talk of putting Betemit in as the starting shortstop, but obviously that didn't happen. The trade of Johnny Estrada to the Diamondbacks freed up the catching position for Brian McCann. McCann has been viewed as the catcher of the future - at least until Saltalamaccia arrives. Then they'll be dealing from strength. Either way, he should be at least league average. Todd Pratt and Brayan Pena will serve as backups.

Projected Infield:
C: Brian McCann
1B: Adam LaRoche
2B: Marcus Giles
SS: Edgar Renteria
3B: Chipper Jones

Fantasy Value:

There's mostly known commodoties in the Braves' infield. Chipper's known, Giles is known - he should produce in the top 5 of second basemen over MLB; if he drops production, he should be top 8 at the worst. Again, Renteria is dealing with a league change. Personally speaking, I think he'll do well with the change. McCann should be league average - and in the NL, that can be either a good thing or a bad thing. I'm going to assume that he'll be classically league average - that is to say, above the league average that the NL will produce this year. LaRoche did well in a platoon situation last year, although he's probably a second-level unknown (as opposed to the first-level unknown that McCann is). He should do well.

Additional information:
Brian McCann
Marcus Giles


Last year, Andruw Jones performed well above previous performances; arguably he finally met expectations. He'll be counted on to perform at that same level in the lineup; he looks to be slotted in the middle of the lineup again this year. Jeff Francoeur absolutely rocked out in his RF performance before hitting the wall in September. Hopefully an additional year of experience should help to alleviate the fatigue he suffered late in the season.

In left field, Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson should platoon. Langerhans will also probably give Francoeur occasional days off. Aside from Andruw, everyone else in the Braves' outfield is going through either their first or second seasons in the major leagues. There will probably be some growing pains, but one of the things that the Braves' organization has done well in past seasons has been bringing and grooming rookies for the big leagues. No reason to see why that shouldn't continue.

Projected Outfield:
LF: Ryan Langerhans / Kelly Johnson
CF: Andruw Jones
RF: Jeff Francoeur

Fantasy Value:

Put simply: Andruw Jones is hardcore, Francoeur is certainly rosterable in most leagues, moreso in NL / deep leagues. Don't worry about Langerhans and Johnson; unless one of them establishes dominance over the position, neither of them will do enough to be worthwhile in any but the most desperate of situations.

Additional information:
Jeff Francoeur

Extra stuff:

The Braves have won the NL East 14 years running; luck can only account for about 7 years running. The guys running the organization are good - the biggest question in my book is what kind of detriment that the departure of Leo Mazzone will have on the pitching staff. They've always been able to rebound well after everyone's given them up for dead. I figure on much the same thing this year. It's a simple tenet of gambling: as long as something consistently wins, keep betting on it. Will you get burned? Sure. However, after 14 payouts in a row, one burn can't be too bad.

A common tenet the Braves have had over the last 4 or 5 years has been a massive retooling. This year, they're bringing back their late-90's specialty - the unstable bullpen. Of course, it's worked for them in the past. It should work again. Besides, as of now, they're still one or two moves away from having an entirely complete team. They have questions in the bullpen and possibly at first and in left. Not that bad - better than most teams, certainly. Better than anyone else in the division.

On Deck

So what's up next? Team capsules. Pretty simply put, I plan on at least doing a cursory rundown of what every team looks like heading into Opening Day. (Yeah, hopefully I'll be done by then.) They'll be broken down - more or less - into 7 sections:

  1. Starting Pitching
  2. Closers / Middle Relief
  3. Catchers /Infielders
  4. Outfield
  5. Fantasy Baseball Impact
  6. Performance Prediction
Functionally speaking, the fantasy baseball impact is going to go after each section - at least that's how I've done it with the Braves and Phillies (which I've already finished - only 28 more teams to go). I'll post the expected order of writing ...uh, as soon as I find it. Oops, never mind, here we are.

  1. Atlanta Braves
  2. Philadelphia Phillies
  3. New York Mets
  4. Florida Marlins
  5. Washington Nationals
  6. St. Louis Cardinals
  7. Houston Astros
  8. Chicago Cubs
  9. Milwaukee Brewers
  10. Pittsburgh Pirates
  11. Cincinnati Reds
  12. San Francisco Giants
  13. Los Angeles Dodgers
  14. Colorado Rockies
  15. Arizona Diamondbacks
  16. San Diego Padres
  17. Seattle Mariners
  18. Texas Rangers
  19. Anaheim Angels
  20. Oakland A's (in progress)
  21. Cleveland Indians (finished, need to post)
  22. Chicago White Sox (finished, need to post)
  23. Detroit Tigers (finished, need to post)
  24. Minnesota Twins (finished, need to post)
  25. Kansas City Royals (finished, need to post)
  26. Boston Red Sox (finished, need to post)
  27. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (finished, need to post)
  28. New York Yankees (finished, need to post)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (finished, need to post)
  30. Toronto Blue Jays (finished, need to post)
There's no real reason behind this, other than I like the NL more than the AL. That and I remembered those teams first. It's more or less in a divisional format, too. Should be fairly easy to recognize (and I'll link back here as a general reference for the other capsules; this post will be edited often).

A couple of notes about this. First off, this isn't intended to be a professional-level capsule about each team. For one, I don't have the time, and secondly, I'm not getting paid for this anyway. I also don't have the type of resources they have. On top of that, it's not going to be as in-depth as fans of each respective team will do. There's a ton of blogs out there devoted to each team (I read a fair amount of them when I have the time) - I'll link to them as need be. What these capsules will hopefully provide is an opportunity to see quick hits on all the teams in one easy-to-find place. I'm going to see if I can find a way to leave this post at the top of the page so it'll be easy to link in and find things that way.

Tuesday, February 14

Starting out with a Whimper

So. What on earth makes this blog worthwhile, huh? What makes it better than the rest? Well, in short, there's nothing that entirely stands out. This is a sports blog, pure and simple. About 90% of the posts will fall under baseball and college football. I'll probably hit some college basketball too while it's in season, and if I can get the time to watch any games. The rest will hit all over the sports map, but I largely expect everything from April to August to be about baseball. In short, we'll see.

What's coming up on this? Well, I plan on doing short capsules of all the major league teams heading into Opening Day. Ideally, I'll get them all done by then, but that requires a major time investment, and as of now, I'm only one person. If someone would be willing to help with this, that'd be awesome. If not, well, I can do the work myself (I'd learn more that way, anyway).

Anyway, enjoy!