Friday, February 4, 2005
AL CENTRAL HITTERS
Before we get started with today's entry, I need to encourage all of you to head over to the Stick and Ball Guy site. Today, you will see that I am his guest writer and get to play a little game of Pepper! SBG and I each write our thoughts on ten topics. Sounds easy, right? Well, there is a 50 word limit. We all know how long-winded I can be, so brevity is tough for me! So, check it out here.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be providing a team-by-team, position-by-position look at the major league players from a fantasy baseball perspective. I want to do this for a couple of reasons. First, I love fantasy baseball and love discussing what I think of certain players. Second, I know that many people who take the time to read baseball sites like this one participate in fantasy baseball leagues as well.
However, I do understand not everyone gets into fantasy sports, and that’s OK too. I think that my “analysis” won’t be too “statty” and should be enjoyable for any baseball fan to read.
I know it is a little bit early to be talking about fantasy baseball, but I know that many keeper leagues have to turn in their ‘keepers’ this month. Also, at this point, most of the free agents have been signed (the exception being Magglio Ordonez, although I think we know where he will be signing). However, there could still be some trades which could alter some of these opinions. For instance, if Aubrey Huff is traded, that would greatly change the value of Joey Gathright. It could also affect how Huff would be valued.
If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
Disclaimer: What you read below are simply my opinions. Obviously I have no knowledge of what will happen in the 2005 season, so please take the information for what it is worth (fun and something to look at throughout the season). All players listed are either projected starters, or starters based on my opinion. I will try to project where each player could be drafted, assuming a 30 round draft.
Here is the schedule for this project. I hope to do about three parts each week:
Part 1 - American League Central Hitters
Part 2 - American League East Hitters
Part 3 - American League West Hitters
Part 4 - National League Central Hitters
Part 5 - National League East Hitters
Part 6 - National League West Hitters
Part 7 - American League Central Hitters
Part 8 - American League East Hitters
Part 9 - American League West Hitters
Part 10 - National League Central Hitters
Part 11 - National League East Hitters
Part 12 - National League West Hitters
Part 13 - Rookies and Prospects
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL HITTERS
I am going to start with the American League Central Division. Not because it is the division the Twins play in. Simply because it is the first division in alphabetical order. That is also the order that I showcase the teams in below. Last year, I commented that the AL Central was really weak and very few players would be high draft picks. I think that things have changed as there are many of these guys are really top-notch fantasy players. So, let’s get going on some analysis. If you have any comments, arguments, agreements, questions or anything, please feel free to e-mail me. When this project is complete, I would like to put together a Mailbag issue with many of those comments.
Chicago White Sox
C - AJ Pierzynski
Pierzynski is back in the AL Central after his single season in San Francisco. After two straight .300 seasons with the Twins, Pierzynski really struggled at the start and end of 2004. He hit .236 in April and finished by hitting just .173 in September. His lone really good month was June when he hit .368. But, Twins fans should know what to expect of Pierzynski. We know he will likely hit about .300, with an OB% of maybe .330. He will hit 10-12 homers. The question is whether Pierzynski will hit in and RBI position in the Sox lineup. I would guess he’ll bat seven or eight for them. In terms of fantasy draft, Pierzynski is a late-round draft pick.
1B - Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko was inexplicably bad in 2003. He had been so good the two previous years And then last year, he had the best season of his career. He hit .277 with 41 homers and 117 RBI. I would like to see him increase his doubles, but if he puts up similar numbers in 2005, and I think he can, he should be taken between the 8th and 10th rounds.
2B - Tadahito Iguchi
Iguchi is just a career .271 hitter in Japan. That is very misrepresentative of what he could do in America. Why? Because the last two seasons, he has hit .340 and .333. His OPS the last two years has been 1.011 and .943. What will he do in 2005? Who knows? According to analysis by Aaron Gleeman, his projection would give him a .300/.345/.425 season. That is very solid, certainly better than what Willie Harris would likely do, but I would wait until the 15th round or later to take him.
3B - Joe Crede
Crede will now be in his third full season as the White Sox 3B. He continues to show glimpses of stardom, but hasn’t been able to be at all consistent. Over the last two years, he has averaged 20 home runs and 72 RBI. The Sox really don’t have any other 3B options, so he will continue to play every day, so he’s not a bad option. I would project him as a 20th round pick.
SS - Jose Uribe
The 25 year old Uribe will finally get a full-time gig in 2005. He will be the White Sox every day SS after playing primarily at 2B last year for the team. In just 134 games, he hit .283, with 31 doubles, 23 homers and 74 RBI. Imagine what having a full-time position will do for him, and then remember that he will be eligible at 2B, 3B and SS this year. To me, he could be a sleeper, worth taking in the 12th round.
LF - Aaron Rowand
The Sox seemed to always want to find someone to better their CF position. Man, they traded for Carl Everett both of the last two years. Fact is, Aaron Rowand had a really great 2004 and deserved the spot in the every day lineup. In 140 games, Rowand hit .310 with a .905 OPS. He hit 24 homers and drove in 69 runs. The Sox gave him a 3 year contract. He is another sleeper candidate. Because he is an outfielder, he will fall to the 20th round or lower.
CF - Scott Podsednik
Podsednik comes to the White Sox in what I would have to consider one of the more controversial trades of the offseason. The Sox unloaded their best hitter for the speedy Podsednik. Now, Podsednik is very valuable if you’re in a 5x5 league because last year, he led the majors with 70 stolen bases. He is interesting though because he got on base just 31% of his 700 plate appearances. That isn’t good, especially for a leadoff hitter. In his rookie year of 2003, he hit .314 and got on-base about 38% of the time. If you’re in a 5x5 league, Pods is probably a 5th or 6th round pick. In a performance-type league, unless steals are worth a lot, wait until late to grab him.
RF – Jermaine Dye
The White Sox worked quick to sign Dye to replace Magglio Ordonez. There are three parts to every Jermaine Dye season. In no particular order, they are: 1.) he is a team carries for a month, 2.) he slumps for two months or more while people still think that he is having a good year because of the good times, and 3.) he gets hurt and misses a month or so. It’s easy to say draft him in the mid-rounds and trade him when he is hitting well. His last two full seasons (he played in just 65 games in 2003), he has averaged 24 homers and 83 RBI in 134 games played. You just don’t want to be stuck with him when it all goes downhill. He’s a risk, but worth a 21st round pick.
DH - Frank Thomas
Thomas missed over half of last season with an ankle injury (and he waited until October to have surgery!). In 74 games last year, he hit .271, but had an on-base percentage of .434 and an OPS of .997. Thomas’s days of hitting .300 are long gone, but his pitch selection and power make him valuable still in fantasy baseball. Assuming health, we’re talking about a guy whose career OPS is .997. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But at 37 years of age (most of the season) and coming off of ankle surgery, can he be successful in the now? He’s a risk, but a pretty safe risk in the 13th round.
One 2 Watch – Carl Everett
It will be very interesting to see how Carl Everett is used on this team. He is a bad outfielder, and all three of the above listed starters are better defensively, and Thomas will be the DH when available. After being an All-Star in 2003, Everett struggled both with Montreal and with the White Sox. He also missed more time with muscle injuries. So, will Everett only get AB’s as a pinch hitter? Is he insurance for injury? How will he react mentally to the diminished role? It should be interesting and I certainly would not want to draft him. He’s not worth the risk any more the way Milton Bradley is.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Konerko, Uribe, Gonzalez.
The Bad – Not any real weak links.
The Questions - Which Konerko will show up? Can Crede reach his potential for a full season? What will Iguchi be able to do? What is Everett’s role? Are Uribe and Rowand for real?
C - Victor Martinez
Martinez has always been known as a hitting catcher. Last year, in his first full season as the Indians’ backstop, Martinez was the best hitting catcher in baseball. In 141 games, he hit .284/.355/.453 with 38 doubles, 23 homers and 108 RBI. He will be just 26 the entire season. To me, he should be the first catcher taken in any draft. I would consider him in the 2nd or 3rd round.
1B - Ben Broussard
Broussard is certainly the better defensive first baseman between he and Travis Hafner, so he will play every day. It is interesting because last year, he got just 69 at bats against left-handed pitching, yet in those at bats, he hit .362 with an OPS of 1.081. No known as a great hitter, Broussard did hit .275/.370/.488 last year, with 28 doubles, 17 homers and 82 RBI, in just 139 games. If he plays 155 games in 2005, I would expect him to put up similar percentage-numbers, but increase the real numbers. To me, there are a lot better corner infield options, but he Broussard is a steady performer who will give you points every week. Take him in the 20th round.
2B - Ron Belliard
Last year, Belliard was an All-Star when he hit .304/.376/.425 with 5 homers and 37 RBI. In the second half, the average fell to .254 and his on-base percentage plummeted to .311, but he maintained the power with a .427 slugging percentage. All told, Belliard had a very solid, but unspectacular 2004 season. Because he is a second baseman, he is a strong candidate to get drafted way higher than he really should. Don’t fall into that trap! And don’t forget that the Indians also signed Alex Cora recently, and he is likely to take away some playing time. I would wait until the 19th round to take Belliard.
3B - Aaron Boone
The Indians took a chance last summer by signing Boone to a two year deal knowing it was unlikely he would play for them in 2004. He missed the entire 2004 season after tearing up his knee playing basketball in the offseason and being released by the Yankees. In the two previous seasons, Boone had averaged 161 games, 35 doubles, 25 homers, 92 RBI and even 28 stolen bases. I think this was a great signing for the Indians and he will help them out tremendously, if he is healthy. I think he’s worth the risk by about the 16th round, maybe sooner if your league’s position eligibility allows him to play three positions for you.
SS - Jhonny Peralta
In 2003, the man with the curious “H” split the season between the Indians and AAA Buffalo. Last year, Omar Vizquel’s swan song in Cleveland, Peralta had to bide his time at AAA. He could have sulked, but instead he had a really impressive season, one that had to prove to Indians management that he was more than ready to be Vizquel’s successor. Peralta was second in the International League in Batting Average (to Jason Kubel) with a .323 mark. He added 44 doubles, 15 homers and 82 RBI. I certainly don’t expect those types of numbers right away in 2005 from him, but I would expect him to hit about .280/.330/.430. The .760 OPS is fairly average at SS, but his upside is higher than most of those average SS. If you are in a keeper league, certainly grab Peralta. In a big league, wait until the 18th round to gamble on the youngster.
LF - Casey Blake
Former Twin turned good! Sure, he’s not quite the David Ortiz success story, but I am so happy for Casey Blake. He never had a chance with the Twins because of (the deserving) Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz. After a very successful first full season in 2003, Blake improved all of his numbers in 2004. (from .257/.312/.411 with 17 homers and 67 RBI to .271/.354/.486 with 28 homers and 88 RBI. Now, some of that is a byproduct of a better Indians lineup around him. Now, it’s not certain as to whether he will play LF or RF because of Juan Gonzalez, but he will be in the lineup somewhere. The fact that he is still eligible at 3B too makes him more valuable. I would take him in about the 12th round.
CF - Coco Crisp
Crisp had been up for portions of the two previous seasons and had shown signs of being a productive major league player. Last year, Crisp surprised me by becoming a more complete player. In 139 games, he hit .297/.344/446 with 24 doubles, 15 homers and 71 RBI, all that primarily out of the leadoff and #9 spots in the lineup. He also stole 20 bases. Crisp also will be in the Indians outfield this season, most every day. In a 5x5 league, he may be worth a 13th round pick. In a regular performance league, you should really wait until about the 21st round.
RF - Juan Gonzalez/Jody Gerut
The Indians took a gamble and signed Juan Gonzalez to a minor league contract. If he makes the team, he will play for a small salary with plenty of incentives. I think we all know that Gonzalez will make the team and he will likely play in RF (or DH against lefties). You know how I feel about Gonzalez. Every year he starts out great, then comes up with a mysterious injury that is never able to heal and he misses the rest o the season. The Indians have to hope Gonzalez regains the will to play that he last had when he played in Cleveland. I wouldn’t want him on my team, but if he’s still there in the late rounds, you could take a flyer on him. Gerut really struggled to start 2004 after his great 2003 rookie season. He tore his ACL late in the season and had surgery and will likely miss the beginning of the 2005 season. I wouldn’t draft him, unless your league allows you to put him on the DL. Then you can draft him, and DL him right away to pick up someone else after the draft.
DH - Travis Hafner
The North Dakota boy was one of the most improved players in all of baseball in 2004. He put up some incredible numbers, made more impressive by the fact that he did it in just 140 games. See, Hafner can’t hit lefties (.244 Avg against lefties, .344 against righties, .723 OPS against lefties, 1.123 against righties), and the Indians are smart enough not to throw him out there too much against them. With Hafner, the power potential was always there, he was just able to put it together in his first full MLB season. On the year, he hit .311/.410/.583 with 41 doubles, 28 homers and 109 RBI. I would take Hafner by about the 7th round.
One 2 Watch – Grady Sizemore
The signing of Juan Gonzalez had to put a damper on Sizemore’s off-season. Before that move, Sizemore was scheduled to be the Indians centerfielder (with Crisp in left and Blake in right). But now, it is likely that Sizemore will start the season at AAA. He is just 22 years old and has hit well at every minor league level. He will be a star, it may just not be right from the beginning of the season. In a keeper league, grab him fairly early. In a performance league, grab him late and hope Juan-Gone packs his bags early.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Victor Martinez, Hafner, the future of Sizemore and Peralta.
The Bad – Not many weak links.
Question Marks - How will the OF situation play out? How will Alex Cora and Jose Hernandez factor into their lineup? Can Crisp, Hafner, Martinez and Broussard continue to improve? (if so, they could be a fun team to watch) What will Aaron Boone be able to do? How many games will Gonzalez play before he gets “hurt”?
C - Ivan Rodriguez
Last year, Rodriguez was one of the final big-named free agents to sign. Much has been made about how great Rodriguez has been in recent years. For a catcher, he certainly has been. But he also hasn’t had an OPS over .900 in four years. Granted, he hasn’t had one under .840 in eight years either. In other words, he is one of the better offensive catchers in baseball, but I wouldn’t encourage taking him too early. All that said, how many catchers hit .334 with 32 doubles, 19 homers and 86 RBI last year? I think you could count it on one hand. (before the All-Star break, he was hitting .369 (.500 in June) with 12 homers and 59 RBI). But, he also is a 33 year old catcher, which is a big enough risk in its own right. To me, he’s a 4th or 5th round pick.
1B - Carlos Pena
Hit just .241 last season with 146 strikeouts (after hitting .248 with 123 Ks in 2003). Those aren’t good numbers, however, Pena hit 27 home runs and drove in 82 runs for the Tigers last year. I would expect Pena to have his best season yet in 2005. You should be able to get him late in any draft. Maybe grab him in the 16th round, take the jeers from the rest of the league, and end the season laughing at them!
2B - Omar Infante
Infante’s production in 2004 absolutely shocked me. I mean, he hit .222/.278/.258 in 221 at bats in 2003. Well, last year due to a Fernando Vina injury, Infante was forced into the every day lineup and he certainly responded. In 503 at bats, he hit .264/.317/.449 with 27 doubles, 9 triples, and 16 home runs. And this year, he goes into camp as the every day shortstop. Infante is just 23 years old, so his early struggles could have just been from not being ready. I guess I would predict that Infante’s numbers will come down to earth some in 2005. But with that youth, he’s worth a late pick, especially since he’s a 2B.
3B - Brandon Inge
If Infante’s productivity in 2004 was shocking, I don’t even know what word would describe what Inge did in 2004. In his first three seasons with the Tigers, Inge had hit .180, .202, and .203. Signing Pudge just made sense. But Inge became a utility player and maybe not leading a pitching staff cleared his mind at the plate. He hit .287/.340/.453 with 13 homers and 64 RBI. He also doubled his walks. Inge will be eligible at 3B, Catcher and the outfield in 2005, giving him more value. He is being given the 3B job in spring meaning he will be given every shot to play in 155 games. I don’t expect a replay of 2004 for Inge, and even that produced just a .793 OPS, so I still would hesitate to draft him before the last couple of rounds.
SS - Carlos Guillen
Guillen was known as an underachieving partier in Seattle. Last year, he became an All-Star with the Tigers. He hit .318/.379/.542 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 20 home runs and 97 RBI. Don’t forget that he also missed the last three weeks of the season with a knee injury. Assuming he is healthy to start 2005, I think Guillen has the ability to equal his 2004 production. If that’s that case, pick him up at the top of that second wave of shortstops, likely around the 8th or 9th round.
LF - Rondell White/Craig Monroe
To me, White is the epitome of the solid veteran outfielder. There are a lot of them out there. White is 32 and every year he is very productive. His problem throughout his career has been injuries. Last year, it limited him to 132 games. But in that time, he hit .270 with 21 doubles, 19 homers and 67 RBI. These are very typical numbers for an outfielder and you can find equal production in a lot of places. Many fantasy players will take a young prospect in place of the solid veteran, thinking the upside is higher, and it it. But from White, you know what you’re going to get, and generally speaking, you know when he’s hurt so you don’t have to play him. He’s a solid pick in the last couple of rounds. Now, Monroe is probably the most talented of all of the Tigers outfielders. In 128 games last year, Monroe hit .293 with 18 homers and 72 RBI. He should play every day, but will he. He’s worth a late round pick though.
CF - Alex Sanchez/Nook Logan
Sanchez was having arguably his best season in 2004 when an August hamstring cut short his season after just 79 games. At the time, he was hitting .322. The problem with Sanchez is that, even with the .322 average, his on-base percentage was just .335. That is actually remarkably sad! For a guy whose game is speed, and stolen bases, you would think he would want to take more walks. He had just 19 steals last year after having 52 between Detroit and Milwaukee in 2003. Sanchez has value in 5x5 leagues where SB is a category. Otherwise, I don’t think he’s draftable in performance leagues. Logan’s game is speed too. Even in the minor leagues his batting average was not high, but he does take the occasional walk. Between AAA and the Tigers last year, Logan stole 46 bases. His stolen base totals the previous minor league seasons were 62, 57 and 37. Sanchez will likely be the starter, so you can get Logan very late, but only grab him in keeper leagues.
RF - Bobby Higginson/Magglio Ordonez
Higginson used to be a great outfielder for most of the late 1990s. But when the Tigers went bad, Higginson went real bad. Last year, he hit just .246 with 12 homers and 64 RBI in 131 games. He is making huge money, so he really has to play. That’s what I said last year. He still didn’t play better, and despite the fact that he will make almost $12 million in 2005, there could be another right fielder getting the majority of the playing time. I know it’s not certain, but I don’t think there is any reason to believe that Magglio Ordonez will sign with anyone other than Detroit. Amazingly, he is likely to get an eight-figure, multi-year contract despite the fact that he had some weird treatment in Europe for his knee and he hasn’t yet worked out for a team. Ordonez played just 52 games in 2004. However,
DH - Dmitri Young
After a very impressive 2003 season, Young went back down to earth in 2004. He played just 104 games and hit just .272/.336/.481 with 23 doubles, 18 homers and 60 RBI. Pro-rated to 155 games, his numbers would be solid again. Young is usually played as an OF in fantasy leagues, which decreases his value. So I would wait until about the 14th round to consider drafting him.
One 2 Watch – Chris Shelton
The Tigers took Shelton with the first pick in the 2003 Rule V Draft. That meant that he had to spend the entire 2004 season on the major league roster. For the year, he got just 46 at bats in 27 games. He hit just .196 with a double and a homer. Shelton will likely be in the minors most of the 2005 season. However, he dominated the Arizona Fall League last year which puts him in the good prospect category, but to me, it was really impressive because of his lack of playing time. In the event of an injury, Shelton could get a legitimate shot. Don’t draft him except in keeper leagues.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Guillen.
The Bad - Inge. It doesn’t get much worse. They’re the Tigers.
The Question Marks – Will Rodriguez finally start to decline? Can Inge and Infante continue to improve? Will the Tigers sign Magglio Ordonez?
Kansas City Royals
C - John Buck
John Buck is known as a defensive catcher, but last year at AAA New Orleans (Astros organization), Buck was hitting .300/.368/.507. And then came the Carlos Beltran trade and Buck came to the Royals where he was immediately brought to the Royals and played in 71 games for the team. In 237 at bats, Buck hit .235/.280/.424 with 9 doubles, 12 homers and 30 RBI. Based on his minor league numbers, I wouldn’t expect him to ever hit for high average, and he certainly didn’t show a propensity to walk. However, if you double the number of games played in 2005 and he hits 20-25 home runs, that is a very productive catcher. Again, I don’t see that happening, but I can see him hitting 15-18 homers. He may be worth a flyer in the 19th round.
1B - Mike Sweeney
After missing 54 games in 2003, Sweeney missed 56 games in 2004. In 106 games last year, he hit .287/.347/.504 with 22 homers and 79 RBI. I would love to say that he’s worth drafting in the 7th or 8th round because when healthy the man can flat-out hit. However, I don’t think that is really even much of an option any more. He just isn’t worth it that early. His injury last year was to his back, and that is not good for a hitter who swings with the ferocity of Sweeney. Based on what he did from 1999-2002, he may be worth the risk by the 13th or 14th round.
2B – Ruben Gotay/Tony Graffanino
I think this decision will be made in spring training. The fact is that Tony Graffanino, in his nine big league seasons, has never really had a starting gig. He has always been a very good utility player. It is almost remarkable how consistent he has been the last three years, very near his career numbers of .259/.330/.388. Last year, he started the season as the Royals 2B, but injured his calf in July and missed the rest of the season. That is when 21 year old Ruben Gotay was called up from AA Wichita where he was hitting a very respectable .290/.373/.441 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 9 homers and 68 RBI. I noticed also that he walked 51 times and struck out 60 times. Clearly Gotay is the future at the position. If he’s not deemed ready, then Graffanino will start. He’s not worth drafting. Gotay shouldn’t be drafted before the last round, except in keeper leagues.
3B - Chris Truby/Mark Teahen
3B is very similar to the 2B situation for the Royals. In this case, Truby is a major league veteran who isn’t very good, but can fill the spot for a year, or basically until they decide that Teahan is ready. Truby is 31 years old. He spent the first nine pro seasons in the Astros organization. He had two stints in Houston and hit for poor average, poor OB%, but did show some power. He split 2003 between the Tigers and Devil Rays, not hitting well either place. Last year, he spent the season in Nashville, the AAA Affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. There, he hit .300/.367/.558 with 41 doubles, 25 homers and 83 RBI. In other words, Truby is a AAAA player. Teahan is best known for being a draftee chronicled in Moneyball. He came to the Royals last summer in the Beltran/Dotel trade. In other words, he will hit for some average, walk a ton, and hit for some power. At AA last year, Teahen first showed some power. He may need a couple of months at AAA, but it will be his job in the near future. Don’t draft Truby. Draft Teahen only in keeper leagues.
SS - Angel Berroa
“You hate to think it, but I can’t help it. I think Angel Berroa could become another victim or the ‘Sophomore Slump.’” That is what I wrote about Berroa last year, and it is one prediction that I actually got right! Berroa struggled so much last year that he was actually sent down to AA for a few weeks just to regain some of his confidence. All told, Berroa hit .262/.308/.385 with 8 homers. He stole 14 bases, but was caught 8 times (64%, not good). I think this will be a typical season for Berroa, so I don’t think he’s worth drafting earlier than the 21st round.
LF - Terrence Long
If Terrence Long is a starter on your team, that doesn’t bode well for your team (how many times have I said something similar to that with the Royals!?). Last year in San Diego, Long got 288 at bats in 136 games. He hit. 295/.335/.420 with 19 doubles, 3 homers and 28 RBI. Long is good defensively though, and that will give him some playing time. I wouldn’t draft him at all, unless you absolutely have to (in a AL-only league?).
CF - David DeJesus
David DeJesus started 2004 at AAA Omaha and was just raking the ball through 50 games. He was hitting .315/.400/.518 with 14 doubles and 6 homers. When Carlos Beltran was traded, DeJesus became the team’s starting CF. After a slow start, DeJesus proved that he will be a solid replacement and a fixture at the top of the Royals lineup for years. In 96 games with the Royals, DeJesus hit .287/.360/.402 with 15 doubles, 7 homers and 39 RBI. He is speedy, but it does not transfer into stolen bases yet. He was just 8/19 for the Royals in 2004. I think DeJesus is the real deal. Draft him in the first few rounds in keeper leagues. In standard leagues, wait until the 20th round (but he could be a sleeper that late).
RF - Eli Marrero/Matt Stairs
The 31 year old Marrero missed time last year with the Braves due to an upper respiratory problem. But when he did play, he was excellent. He hit .320/.374/.520 with 18 doubles, 10 homers and 40 RBI. However, he is a career .250/.307/.410 hitter, so don’t expect another big year from Marrero. But, he should see plenty of time in both right and left field. Matt Stairs is horrible on defense, but he certainly can hit. In 126 games, he hit .267/.345/.451 with 21 doubles, 18 homers and 66 RBI. He doesn’t play against lefties though. So, I certainly wouldn’t want either of these guys on my team. Draft them VERY late, even in AL-only leagues.
DH - Ken Harvey
Ken Harvey had a solid, if unspectacular rookie season in 2003. In 2004, he was the Royals All-Star representative. The 6-2, 240 pound former Nebraska Cornhusker hit .397 in April and .333 in May before a little reality set in. He didn’t hit above .276 in any other month. So, for the year, he hit .287/.338/.421 with 20 doubles, 13 homers and 55 RBI in 120 games (because a strained oblique put him on the Disabled List. I would expect that type of line from Harvey, however more consistent throughout the year. Take him around the 17th round.
One 2 Watch – Calvin Pickering
Pickering has been around for a long time, mainly moving from minor league team to minor league team from organization to organization. Only last year did he start putting up the numbers that made him one of baseball’s top prospects in 1998. He got off to a very fast start at AAA Omaha (and should have been called up to the Royals far sooner). In 89 AAA games, Pickering hit .314/.451/.712 with 35 homers and 79 RBI. That’s a 1.163 OPS, if you were wondering. He finally was called up to the Royals and got to play in 35 games. He hit .246/.338/.500 with 8 doubles, 7 homers and 26 RBI. You would think after a season like that he would have a roster spot sewn up, but that is not the case because he really doesn’t have a position other than DH and 1B, where Harvey and Sweeney are (frequently injured). Pickering should not be drafted, but watch his progress along with Harvey and Sweeney’s.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – the future of DeJesus. The hope of a healthy Sweeney.
The Bad – Injuries to Sweeney and Harvey. Basically every position.
The Question Marks - Health issues for Sweeney and Harvey. Can Berroa come back? Will they go with youth or veterans at 2B and 3B?
C - Joe Mauer
There are so many things about the 2005 Twins that I am really looking forward to. The first is that I want to see a full season of a healthy Joe Mauer. Mauer hurt his knee in just the season’s second game last year. He had surgery, came back in early June and hit so well that he was moved to the #3 slot in the Twins lineup. That says a lot! Unfortunately, swelling occurred after the All-Star break (because of overuse) and he was shut down for the remainder of the season. From just watching, I am most impressed with his plate discipline. He doesn’t take pitches for the purpose of walking, he looks for pitches to drive and doesn’t expand the strike zone at all. What are my predictions for 2005 for Mauer? If he can stay healthy, I can see him hitting .300/.390/.490, which would be phenomenal in his first season. To me, if he’s available in a keeper league, he should be drafted first. I think he is worth the risk with a 9th round pick. Again, that could be a huge steal.
1B - Justin Morneau
Hopefully for Twins fans, I will be able to analyze Mauer (21) and Morneau (23) back-to-back in these two positions for a decade. Also, back to back is where I would like to see them in the Twins lineup; Mauer batting third and Morneau batting cleanup. It is scary to think that it took a Doug Mientkiewicz wrist injury to give Morneau the full-time first base job. That is a move that should have happened a year earlier. Morneau crushed the ball at three levels in 2003 at age 22. Last year, he again started the season at Rochester. In 72 games, he hit .306/.377/.615 with 23 doubles, 22 homers and 63 RBI. In 74 games with the Twins, Morneau hit .271/.340/.576 with 17 doubles, 19 homers and 58 RBI. Just to do the math for you, he played in 146 games and combined for 40 doubles, 41 homers and 121 RBI. What are my predictions for 2005? .285/.370/.550. I would predict that he will hit 35 home runs and drive in over 100. To me, he becomes a solid pick in the 5th round.
2B - Luis Rivas
I was so excited heading into the offseason about Michael Cuddyer getting the full-time second base job primarily because I figured there was no way Luis Rivas and his ineptitude would be back for another year. Well, I was wrong. Rivas was brought back for $1.7 million! Ridiculous. But, he likely will be the Twins starter most games here (Seriously, wouldn’t you rather have even Nick Punto play 2B because you will know that he is at least trying). Rivas will be terrible. He’ll probably hit a very empty .260 if Twins fans are lucky. Hopefully by about June, Terry Tiffee will be at 3B and Cuddyer will be at 2B and Rivas will be gone. Oh, by the way, don’t draft him!
3B - Michael Cuddyer
It looks like the Twins will replace Corey Koskie with Michael Cuddyer. I really believe that Michael Cuddyer will have a huge year. All of the signs are there, and finally he will be given an every day job, and I really look forward to seeing what he will do with it. In 2004, Cuddyer moved between five positions. He played in 115 games and hit .263/.339/.440 with 22 doubles, 12 homers and 45 RBI. My predictions for Cuddyer in 2005 would be .280/.360/.510. He should hit over 20 homers and drive in 70-80 runs. Because of being eligible at two or three infield positions, he has increased value. I would consider taking Cuddyer by the 15th round.
SS - Juan Castro/Jason Bartlett
If Twins fans think Luis Rivas is bad, wait until they see Juan Castro. I am fully convinced that Castro will be the team’s opening day SS while the guy who should be there, Bartlett, will be starting in Rochester. The Twins media continues to throw the term “he can pick it” toward Castro. But defensive stats show that he doesn’t make errors, but he has no range either. Offensively, we are talking about a 32 year old who, in 10 years in the majors, is a career .226/.269/.331 hitter. And they gave him two years guaranteed at a million a year! Uggh! Meanwhile, Jason Bartlett has done everything right at AAA. Last year, he hit .332/.417/.475 in just 66 games (because of an injury). I like the people that think that Joe Mauer may not be as good as some think because it is a small sample. Many of these same people are quick to dispute Bartlett because he was just 1-12 in limited time time with the Twins. Don’t even consider drafting Castro. If it looks like Bartlett will get the job, be sure to take him in the 22nd round or so.
LF - Shannon Stewart
Stewart missed another 70 games in 2004. When he did play, he hit a solid .304/.380/.447 with 17 doubles, 11 homers and 47 RBI. He walked 47 times, striking out just 44 times. He is an igniter for the Twins lineup when he is healthy. You know what you’ll get from him. He’ll hit .305/.370/450 every year and miss some time due to injury. He is a dime-a-dozen outfielder in fantasy baseball though, so don’t take him before the 18th round.
CF - Torii Hunter
Hunter is now clearly the leader of the Twins team. Hunter is now 29 years, so he too is pretty projectable. He will likely hit about .270/.330/.480. He’ll hit about 20 homers and drive in 85 or so. I keep hoping that he will stop flailing away at sliders low and away, and each year he does seem to improve a little bit. Maybe batting near Mauer and Morneau will give him a couple of good examples to follow! If he can play in 155 games, I can see him hitting 30 homers. He also steals bases. In 5x5 leagues, he could be taken by the 7th round. In other leagues, wait until the 11th.
RF - Jacque Jones
After hitting .300 the previous two seasons, Jacque hit just .254 last year. He still doesn’t walk. He still can’t hit left-handed pitching. I think there is a good comparison here to Trot Nixon. Once the Red Sox started platooning Nixon, he put up incredible numbers. I would like to see him sit out against lefties with either Lew Ford or Michael Restovich replacing him. I would predict a return toward .300 for Jones, and 30 home runs won’t be out of the question. Take Jones if he’s still available in the 15th round.
DH - Lew Ford
Lew Ford did not travel north with the team out of spring training. He played exactly one game at Rochester before a Torii Hunter injury got him called up. Ford took advantage in a big way and ended up playing in 154 games for the Twins. He was their best, most consistent hitter throughout the whole season. He hit .299/.381/.446 with 31 doubles, 15 homers, 72 RBI and 20 stolen bases (caught just twice). Those numbers almost made him an All-Star last year. But what does it mean for 2005? I really don’t know. The assumption is that he will DH, but if he is the lone backup outfielder, I wonder if Ron Gardenhire would play him at DH? So, taking him before the 20th round could be risky depending on his playing time.
One 2 Watch – Matthew Lecroy/Eric Munson
If Ford is not the DH, Matthew LeCroy and Eric Munson would likely get a lot of the DH at bats. After a solid 2003 season, LeCroy started last year as the Twins DH, but a poor season put him more squarely on the bench, used primarily as a pinch hitter. Munson was the starting 3B for theTigers for a couple of season and didn’t hit for much average. But he hits homers at a rate very similar to Justin Morneau. LeCroy could get AB’s at 1B too. Munson could play 3B or 1B too.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good - The 4 OF are solid (although Kubel in the picture would have been good!), Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer
The Bad - Rivas and Castro.
The Question Marks - Can Mauer stay healthy? How will Mauer perform? Will Jacque Jones be traded, or at least platooned? How long until Bartlett is up? How long until Rivas is benched?
Well, that is it for Part 1 of my Fantasy Baseball Preview. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. The same format will be used for the rest of the teams in baseball. Please let me know what you think. Any comments or suggestions would be welcomed! E-mail me.
There is a great article at Yahoo Sports on Wayne Terwilleger. At 80 years old, Twig is the manager of the Fort Worth Cats of the Independent Central League. It is his 57th season in professional baseball.
Aaron Gleeman continues his 2005 Twins projections by looking at the Middle Infielders.
I recently bought all 115 episodes of The Wonder Years. It is a little weird because it came without commercials. It just didn't quite seem right. Oh well. I loved The Wonder Years. We like Danica McKellar, and when I say "we" I mean 'Me'!
Kevin Garnett was named a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars yesterday! Very deserving.
And on that note, I wish you a great day. If you have any questions or comments on anything you have read above, please e-mail me. Have yourself a great day!
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