Friday, February 18, 2005
National League Central Hitters
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be providing a team-by-team look at many of 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 do not think that my "analysis" will be too "statty" so it should be enjoyable for any baseball fan to read.
Another point to mention before getting started is that there are many forms of fantasy baseball. There are the traditional rotisserie leagues, 5x5 leagues, head-to-head, simulation, keeper leagues, American League Only, National League only and many more. Most leagues probably vary in subtle ways. I am not going to try to analyze for any specific variety. I will just give my opinions on the players. When I project a round-range where the player could be drafted, it will be based on a 30 round major league draft.
If you have any questions or comments about what I write here, or regarding your league, please e-mail me.
Disclaimer: What you read below are simply my opinions. Obviously I have no knowledge of what will happen in the 2004 season, so please take the information for what it is worth (fun). Also, these opinions are subject to change as spring training approaches. 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.
If you missed any of the other divisions, check them out here.
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 Pitchers
Part 8 - American League East Pitchers
Part 9 - American League West Pitchers
Part 10 - National League Central Pitchers
Part 11 - National League East Pitchers
Part 12 - National League West Pitchers
Part 13 - Rookies and Prospects
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST HITTERS
This is a division with division between the haves and the have-nots, and there are plenty of ‘who-knows’ as well! The Cubs should be good. They have a solid lineup, and if healthy, they best pitchers. The Astros have a strong lineup too, and they have Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens. The Cardinals probably have the best lineup, but there are question marks in the pitching staff. The Reds could totally go either way. They made some changes but really need some health. The Pirates have a lot of decent players The Brewers are just starting to bring up some of their incredible prospects, but are about two years away.. So, let’s get to the 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.
C – Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett finally had another season that he can be proud of, and it earned him a nice, fat 3 year contract. In 134 games in 2004, Barrett hit .287/.337/.489 with 32 doubles, 6 triples, 16 homers and 65 RBI. Impressive numbers for a catcher. However, his .826 OPS in 2004 is .100 points higher than his career OPS. So, still wait until the 19th round to take him. And his backup is Henry Blanco, who any Twins fan would tell you that you don’t want him on your fantasy team!
1B – Derrek Lee
Lee started really slowly in his first season in Chicago, hitting just .233 in April. By the end of the season, he hit .278/.356/.504 with a career-high 39 doubles, a career-high 32 homers and a career-high 98 homers. And, although he didn’t run as much has he has in previous seasons, he still had 12 stolen bases. To me, Lee is worth a pick in the 6th round.
2B – Todd Walker
Walker decided to take less money a year ago to play for the Cubs even though they had Mark Grudzielanek at 2B. Walker spent time at 1B, 3B and in the OF in training camp. And then early in the season, Grudzielanek go hurt and Walker produced offensively. He hit .274/.352/.468 with 19 doubles, 15 homers and 50 RBI in 129 games. Walker is certainly not a big-time contributor, but his career .784 OPS is not bad for a 2B. We have to assume he’ll play closer to 150 games in 2005, so he’s worth a 14th round pick.
3B – Aramis Ramirez
The 2001 version of Aramis Ramirez hit .300 with 34 homers and 112 RBI. The 2002 version hit .234 with 18 homers and 71 RBI. 2003 was a very good season for Ramirez. But 2004 was his career best as he hit .318/.373/.578. He had 32 doubles, 36 homers and 103 RBI, in just 145 games. Again, being in such a strong lineup, I would expect more of the same for Ramirez, and would certainly take him in the 5th round.
SS – Nomar Garciaparra
Garciaparra used to be a sure first round pick. So many people talk about what a bad season Garciaparra had in 2004. Fact is, he hit just fine. The problem was that between the Red Sox and Cubs, he played just 81 total games. Combined, he hit .308/.365/.477 with 21 doubles, 9 homers and 41 RBI. Double those numbers and he was well below the numbers he put up from 1998 through 2002. Then again, those seasons were unreal, and I wouldn’t expect the 31 year old to ever reach that plateau again. That said, a .310/20/100 season is very possible in this lineup. That makes him worthy of a 3rd round pick still.
LF – Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Hairston was the major league name involved in the Sammy Sosa, which likely means he be under unfair scrutiny. Hairston is a career .261 hitter who gets on base and steals a bunch of bases. But he won’t replace Sosa. That said, he had a really good 2004 season. He hit .303 with 19 doubles, 2 homers and 24 RBI. His walk to strikeout rate was 1:1, and he stole 13 bases. He did that in 86 games which has been his problem. In 2003, he played just 56 games. However, if he can stay healthy, he will be on base atop this order, meaning a lot of runs scored. I would consider Hairston after the 21st round.
CF – Corey Patterson
Patterson was having a huge, All-Star caliber year in 2003 when a major knee injury ended his season. Patterson came back in 2004 and didn’t quite meet that level, but looking at his overall numbers, they are surprisingly very good. In 153 games, he hit .266/.320/.452 with 33 doubles, 6 triples, 24 homers and 72 RBI. What makes him valuable in fantasy circles is his 32 stolen bases. Still strikes out too much, but there is reason for optimism in 2005. I would take him in the 17th round. Earlier in 5x5 leagues.
RF – Jeromy Burnitz
The day after the Sosa trade, the Cubs spent the money to sign Burnitz who had a big season in Colorado in 2004. The 35 year old hit .283/.356/.559 with 30 doubles, 37 homers and 110 RBI. Sure, it was as a Rockie, but he has hit 30 or more homers in six of the last seven seasons. We know what to expect from Burnitz though. He’ll hit a bunch of homers and strike out a lot and won’t hit for average. I would still consider drafting him by the 16th round.
Two 2 Watch – Todd Hollandsworth/Jason Dubois
Since winning the 1996 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Hollandsworth has not put up big numbers outside of Colorado. Last year, he got into just 57 games for the Cubs, primarily as a pinch hitter. For the season, he hit .318/.392/.547 with 8 homers. With the departures of both Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa, Hollandsworth could see more time. But I think that that Cubs would like to find a way to include Jason Dubois into games. The 25 year old (who is 6-3 and 225) had a monster year at AAA in 2004. He hit .316/.389/.630 with 26 doubles, 31 homers and 99 RBI in just 109 games. He came up to the Cubs and got 23 at bats in 20 games. His power potential makes him an intriguing later round pick if he is given a shot. (I wouldn’t draft Hollandsworth)
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Lee, Garciaparra, Ramirez.
The Bad – Depth in the infield with Neifi Perez and Jose Macias as backups. .
The Questions – Will Garciaparra be able to play 155 games? Can Lee, Patterson and Ramirez continue to get better? Which Barrett and Burnitz will show up?
C – Jason LaRue
LaRue is in his fifth season as the Reds starting catcher. For his career, he has hit .240/.319/.415 hitter. But in the last four years, he has averaged 21 doubles and 13.5 homers which isn’t bad for a catcher. 2004 was his best offensive year as he hit .251/.334/.431 with 24 doubles, 14 homers and 55 RBI in 114 games. Those are not poor numbers, but don’t draft him until the 23rd round.
1B – Sean Casey
After two sub-par seasons, Sean Casey returned to his former self. Last year, Casey hit .324/.381/.534 with 44 doubles, 24 homers and 99 RBI. He scored 101 runs. He also walked 46 times and struck out 36 times. Casey is a career .304 hitter, who can hit for some power, including a lot of doubles. If the Reds experience health, Casey could have another big year. But, I would still wait until the 16th round to take Casey.
2B – D’Angelo Jimenez
Since coming to the Reds from the South Side of Chicago, Jiminez has been a very solid 2B. Last year was Jimenez’s first full season as one team’s primary 2B. In 152 games, he hit .270/.364/.394 with 28 doubles, 12 homers and 67 RBI. He is an excellent leadoff hitter who walked 82 times last year. He also stole 13 bases. And, he is 27 years old. So, although he isn’t a star, or great in any particular area, he becomes one of the best 2B around, and someone who would be a steal in the 13th round.
3B – Joe Randa
I’ve always like "The Joker." I know he isn’t well liked by SABRmetric types, but to me, he is a solid big league player. The fact that he has been a big league starter for nine seasons shows that. Randa is a career .286/.341/.424 hitter. The .751 OPS is not terrible, just not really acceptable for a corner infielder. Last year in Kansas City, Randa played in 128 games and hit .287/.343/.408 with 31 doubles, 8 homers and 56 RBI. I think that Randa could be a steal in the late rounds surrounded by some of the guys in this order. Take Randa in the 25th round.
SS – Felipe Lopez/Rich Aurilia
Is it possible that Felipe Lopez will finally be given (and keep) a starting job? Anderson Machado likely would have been the team’s SS, but he tore up his knee playing winter ball. Lopez has been up and down from the majors to AAA the past four seasons, and yet, he is still just 24 years old. For his career, Lopez has hit .235/.304/.379. Last year, in 79 games, he hit .242/.314/.405 with an impressive 18 doubles and 7 homers. In other words, if he can keep a job, he could be a major sleeper, if only he didn’t strike out so much. If Lopez doesn’t cut it, the Reds got some insurance in Rich Aurilia who was signed to a minor league contract and likely will be a utility player on the team. Aurilia had his one good year in San Francisco and has been awful the past 3 seasons. Draft Lopez if you need a SS in the 26th round, and hope. Don’t take Aurilia.
LF – Adam Dunn
Those who have read this site for awhile know that I hate strikeouts. I would rather someone be able to put the ball in play and let something happen, even if it is just move a runner up. UNLESS, the guy has the ability to hit 46 home runs and drive in 102 runs. That’s what Adam Dunn did last year. He set the major league record for most strikeouts in a season with 195. I like that Dunn played 161 games last year and didn’t shy away from the record. I continue to wonder how many homers he could hit if he expanded the strike zone just a little bit and was more aggressive (4.25 pitches per plate appearance). On the season, Dunn hit .266/388/.569 with 34 doubles to go with the 46 homers and 102 RBI. He stole just 6 bases last year. But he did play in 10 games at 1B last year, meaning he might have multiple position eligibility in your league. Take him in the 3rd round.
CF – Ken Griffey, Jr.
Last year, Junior Griffey hit .253/.351/.513 with 18 doubles, 20 homers and 60 RBI, in just 83 games. Very good numbers. But again, he missed half the season with another injury. I feel awful because Griffey is one of that all-time great, and could have been incredible. I want to see a full season out of the 35 year old, just to see what he can still do. I want to say .275 with 40 homers and 110 RBI. But maybe what you need to do is guess how many games he’s going to play and subtract a percentage from those numbers. Don’t take Junior until about the 18th round, and only take him as a 4th outfield option, and hope for the best.
RF – Austin Kearns
Kearns is another player I would like to see play in 155 games. He is truly a player capable of hitting for power, but also for average. So far though, he has not been able to play a full season because of different major injuries. In 2002, he hit .315 with 24 doubles and 13 homers in 107 games. In 2003, he hit .264 with 11 doubles and 15 homers, in just 82 games. And last year, he was hitting just .230 with 10 doubles and 2 homers when he was hurt after just 64 games. If he is healthy, I do think he’s capable of hitting .290 with 35 homers and 100 RBI. But his injury risk is high, even though he’s just 24, so wait until the 17th round to take him.
One 2 Watch – Wily Mo Pena
Adam Dunn is 25. Austin Kearns is 24. Wily Mo Pena is just 23! Pena has been in the bigs with the Reds for the past three years. Why? Because the Yankees gave him a major league contract when he was 17, so three years ago, he was out of options and had to stay on the team. In 2002, he got just 18 at bats in 13 games. In 2003, he played in 80 games and got just 165 at bats. Then, with all of the OF injuries with the Reds last year, Pena had to play. I remember early in the year, seeing him swing and miss a pitch by literally two feet. But from that point on, he was great! In 110 games, he hit .259/.316/.527 with (just) 10 doubles, 26 doubles and 66 RBI. But what role will Pena have in 2005? I guess he comes into the season as the 4th outfielder and a pinch-hitter. But if, ok when, one of the OF get hurt, he will get the job. Pena is probably worth taking as insurance, but probably not until the 20th round.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – When healthy, this could be the best OF in baseball, now four deep.
The Bad – That OF isn’t likely to stay healthy. . Shortstop
Question Marks – Can anyone (Dunn, Griffey, Kearns, Casey) stay healthy? Can Lopez finally meet the potential that he has? Can Casey duplicate his 2004 season?
C – Brad Ausmus
By SABRmetric terms, and fantasy baseball terms, 35 year old Brad Ausmus is one of the worst hitting players in all of baseball. He is a great defensive catcher though (and smart! He went to Dartmouth), and most important, he has the support of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, and that means more than anything else in Houston. Last year, people were talking about his new stance and how he had such a solid year. Well, he hit .248/.306/.325 with 14 doubles, 5 homers and 31 RBI in just 129 games. That’s sub-Rivas territory! So, again, don’t draft him unless you’re in the last round and you forgot to draft a catcher before!
1B – Jeff Bagwell
Shouldn’t the 36 year old Bagwell start showing signs of his age? Well, he is showing those signs, but only on defense. Offensively, he was great again in 2004. He hit .266/.377/.465 with 29 doubles, 27 homers and 89 RBI. Granted, that .842 OPS was his lowest since 1992, but the numbers are nothing to frown upon. I guess there is no reason to think that he can’t duplicate those numbers again. My concern with Bags would be his shoulder problems and whether he will last a full year. Because of that, I would wait to take him until the 8th round.
2B – Chris Burke
Burke needed a second season at AA in 2003, but he took advantage of it and has hit ever since. He his .301 that year. Last year, he made the move to AAA New Orleans and hit .315/.396/.507 with 33 doubles, 15 homers and 55 RBI. Many people don’t like the idea of a rookie being added to a team that should compete. But Burke is going to be 25 before the season starts. He’s not young. He’ll be just fine. He could be a Rookie of the Year possibility. And, I would look for him to play every day and hit .275 with 30 doubles, 10 homers, and plenty of runs scored. Consider him in the 19th round.
3B – Morgan Ensberg/Mike Lamb
In 2003, Ensberg hit 25 homers in 385 at bats. In 2004, he hit just 10 in 411 at bats. He went from a .907 OPS to a .741 OPS last year. It was a very disappointing season for Ensberg and anyone, like me, who drafted him. Fortunately for the Astros, Mike Lamb was able to play well. In 112 games, he hit .288/.356/.511 with 14 doubles, 14 homers and 58 RBI. So, combined, they did well for the team. But individually, I don’t think that either is worth drafting higher than the 24th round.
SS – Adam Everett
Everett is a master with the glove, but to this point in his career, he can not hit. The last two years, he has put up OPS’s of .700 and .702. Last year, he missed significant time with a broken wrist, otherwise his ‘total’ numbers wouldn’t have been terrible. In just 104 games, he hit .273/.317/.385 with 15 doubles and 8 homers. Don’t expect much more than that from him though. Try not to draft him for your team, but if you have to, make sure it is really late.
LF – Craig Biggio
Like Bagwell, you would suspect that Craig Biggio would start going down as well. But last year, Biggio had another very solid campaign. In 156 games, he hit .281/.337/.469 with 47 doubles, 24 homers and 63 RBI. He also scored 100 runs for the 8th time in the last ten years. I think you can expect the 39 year old’s production to be down a little from last year. I would wait until the 16th round to take Biggio.
CF – Jason Lane
Lane is another player that the team has been hesitant to give full-time play to. Granted, in the past, they have had Biggio, Berkman and Beltran, but even with the departure of Beltran, there are frequent talks of the team trading for a centerfielder. Lane spent all of 2004 with the Astros after spending the previous two seasons between Houston and AAA New Orleans. Last year, in 107 games, he got just 136 at bats, meaning pinch hitting and spot duty. At 28, this will be his for big league starting gig. I know many are excited for his potential. I am not as much. He will be a solid left-handed bat, and in this lineup could be very productive, but I would wait to draft him until the 22nd round.
RF – Lance Berkman
The first thing to remember about Berkman is that he injured his knee early in the offseason and will miss some time at the start of the season. It is also important to remember that the 29 year old Berkman can absolutely clobber a baseball. Last year in 160 games, Berkman hit .316/.450/.566 with 40 doubles, 30 homers, 106 RBI. He walked 127 times, striking out just 101 times. He even stole 9 bases. In his four full seasons, Berkman has averaged 41 doubles, 33 homers, 113 RBI. To me, Berkman is an easy pick in the 3rd round.
One 2 Watch – Jose Vizcaino
When Everett was hurt, Vizcaino took over at SS. He is a 36 year old who would be classified as a good glove, no-hit middle infielder. That could be evidenced by his career OPS of .666. Last year, in 138 games, he hit .274/.311/.374, an OPS of 685. Expect less playing time and similar numbers, meaning… don’t draft him!
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Playing in Minute Maid Park. Bagwell and Berkman.
The Bad – Everett and Ausmus
The Question Marks – How can Burke and Lane do in full-time roles? How long can Biggio and Bagwell keep hitting?
C – Damien Miller/Chad Moeller
Both catchers names are pronounced the same. Both played in the Twins organization in the late ‘90s. Both won a World Series in Arizona catching the likes of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Both are probably guys that you don’t want on your fantasy team. I would predict that they will split catching duties, and neither is a great hitter anyway. In 101 games with the Crew last year, Moeller hit .208/.265/.303 with 13 doubles, 5 homers and 27 RBI. The 35 year old LaCrosse native Miller hit .272/.339/.403 with 25 doubles, 9 homers and 58 RBI in 110 games with Oakland. Those numbers are very similar to his average. Again, because I don’t think either will play more than 110 games, I wouldn’t draft either. Maybe take Miller in a late round.
1B – Lyle Overbay
It was a tale of two halves for Overbay. He struggled in his first full-time job in 2003 in Arizona and was again replaced by Mark Grace. He came to the Brewers in the Sexson deal and got off to a great start. He hit .344/.407/.555 with 37 doubles, 10 homers and 62 RBI. Then in the second half, he hit .245/.357/.379 with 16 doubles, 6 homers and 25 RBI. I would predict that that Overbay is likely to be closer to the 2nd half version than the first half, and Prince Fielder will be up by August. Overbay will probably be drafted in the 8th or 9th round, but let someone else take him. If he’s there in the 15th, you may want to grab him.
2B – Junior Spivey
Spivey hit .272/.359/.421 with 13 doubles and 7 homers, in just 59 games in 2004. I fully expect Spivey to have another huge season in 2005. Why? Because Rickie Weeks is in the rear-view mirror. I would expect Spivey to go back to his 2002, All-Star level. I would predict a .290/25/85 season from Spivey. Of course, with him, he would have to stay healthy, which is a risk, so I would gamble on him in the 20th round.
3B – Wes Helms/Russell Branyan
Wes Helms played in just 92 games at 3B in 2004 because of injury, but also because he had just a .692 OPS when he did play, horrible for a corner infielder. After 23 homers and 67 RBI in 2003, he hit just four homers and drove in 28 runs in 2004. After such a powerful beginning to his career in Cleveland, Branyan has been all over the place, and never became what was expected of him. The Brewers acquired Branyan in July from Cleveland. In 51 games, he hit .234/324/.525 with 11 doubles, 11 homers and 27 RBI, in just 158 at bats. I would like to see Branyan get 500 at bats. I think he would hit about .230 with 35 homers. Watch this situation. If it looks like a platoon, draft neither. If Branyan looks like he could play in 130 games, he may be worth a gamble-pick in the 29th round.
SS – JJ Hardy
Hardy played in just 26 games last year at AAA Indianapolis before a season-ending injury. The Brewers are sticking to the plan that the 23 year old will be their 2005 starting shortstop. It is interesting to me because Hardy has hit .272 with 25 homers in his 4 minor league seasons. He has never hit more than .293 at any level, and that was in Class A. This must be a case where the toolsy scouts know something. But he is continually considered one of the Brewers best prospects (which, with one of the Top 2 minor league systems says a lot). If he does play every day, I see a season similar to that of Khalil Greene, and that’s worth sneaking Hardy with a 25th round pick.
LF – Carlos Lee
The 6-2, 240 pound 28 year old came to the Brewers in the deal for Scott Podsednik. I think acquiring Lee should be considered a steal for the Crew. Last year, with the White Sox, Lee hit .305/.366/.525 with 37 doubles, 31 homers and 99 RBI. He also stole 11 bases. In his six big league seasons, he has averaged 32 doubles, 25 homers and 92 RBI, to go with 10 stolen bases. To me, he’s worth taking in the 9th round.
CF – Brady Clark/David Krynzel
31 year old Clark may be given his first real shot at a starting job. After spending five seasons as a reserve (who actually played quite a bit), Clark goes into camp as the Brewers starter. Last year, in 138 games (353 at bats), Clark hit .280/.385/.397 with 18 doubles, 7 homers and 46 RBI, to go with 15 stolen bases. I would actually expect less numbers in 2005 for Clark because I think at some point mid-season Krynzel will be recalled and when he is will get much of the playing time. Krynzel is 23 years old and last year at Indianapolis he hit .276/.332/.416 with 10 doubles, 6 triples, 27 RBI and 10 stolen bases in just 69 games because of an injury. I would probably not draft either, but monitor Krynzel’s success in the early season.
RF – Geoff Jenkins
After missing playing time in each of his first six big league seasons, Jenkins finally played the injury-free season that I know I have wanted to see. In 157 games, he hit .264/.325/.473 with 36 doubles, 6 triples, 27 home runs and 93 RBI. I think the numbers are solid, but would have to be considered a disappointment considering he had seasons with more homers in 20-25 less games. Maybe as the Brewers plethora of prospects start coming up and giving the team a better all-around lineup, his numbers will again increase. Wait until the 14th round to take him.
One 2 Watch – Rickie Weeks/Prince Fielder
Along with many others, these two guys are legitimate Top 10 prospects in all of baseball. Many expected Weeks to spend a month or two in AA, but he really struggled and spent the whole season there. He hit .259/.366/.407 with 35 doubles, 6 triples, 8 homers and 42 RBI (11 SB). The 22 year old played well in the Arizona Fall League and still will likely be up by midseason. Fielder is still just 20 years old. He too spent the season at AA and hit an impressive .272/.366/.473 with 29 doubles, 23 homers and 78 RBI. He also stole 11 bases. I think that he can hit as many homers as his dad, but also hit for a solid average. Draft both high in keeper leagues (as if they’d be available), but draft them late, if at all in standard leagues.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good - Carlos Lee, and the minor league system.
The Bad – Catcher, 3B, Centerfield.
The Question Marks – Can the 3B duo provide power? Which Overbay shows up? Can Hardy and Krynzel contribute right away? When will Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy and Anthony Gwynn be ready?
C – Benito Santiago/JR House
The question really is, was Santiago brought in as a veteran backup to House, or will he be given the job? I really don’t know what the answer to that is. Either way, the position is far weaker after the departure of Jason Kendall. However, both are also far cheaper. Santiago is still earning contracts because of a couple of solid seasons in San Francisco. Last year, he played in just 49 games for the Royals. House has been a long-time prospect likely as much for his football history as anything he’s ever done on a baseball field. But last year in 92 AAA games, House hit .288/.344/.508 with 21 doubles, 15 homers and 49 RBI. However, you don’t want to draft either.
1B – Craig Wilson
Many picked Wilson to be a breakout performer last year. He certainly came through. In 155 games, The Man with the Golden Locks hit .264/.354/.499 with 35 doubles, 29 homers and 82 RBI. Those numbers are very similar to what he has averaged over his career (parts of four seasons). At 28, I would expect an even bigger season from Wilson in 2005. Because he is eligible both in the outfield and at 1B, consider Wilson by the 12th round.
2B – Jose Castillo
Castillo spent all of 2004 with the Pirates. He made the jump from AA Altoona. For the Pirates, Castillo his .256/.298/.368 with 15 doubles, 8 homers and 39 RBI. I do believe that the 23 year old will turn into a solid hitter in the big leagues. I just would predict it would happen in 2006. So, for 2005, be sure to wait until the 27th round to take him.
3B – Ty Wigginton
Wigginton came to the Pirates as part of the Kris Benson trade. He was the "major league-ready" player in the deal. Splitting time between the Mets and Pirates, Wigginton played in 144 games and hit .261/.324/.433 with 30 doubles, 17 homers and 66 RBI. Those numbers are similar to what he has done in his two-plus years in the big leagues. I would expect him to improve slightly on his 2004 numbers making him worth a 19th round pick.
SS – Jack Wilson
As I said last year, Wilson has ‘never been a good hitter." Until last year, when the 27 year old hit .308/.335/.459 with 201 hits, 41 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers and 59 RBI. So, he doesn’t walk a lot, and doesn’t have a lot of home run power, but that is a very solid year for a middle infielder especially considering his prior track record. Do I expect much of the same in 2005? Not at all, but if he can even come close, he is now worth a 18th round pick.
LF – Jason Bay
After hitting well at every minor league stop, Bay was called up to the Pirates for the last part of the 2003 season. He ended up missing about 40 games at the start of the 2004 season, but he hit so well that he still won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. In 2004, he hit .282/.358/.550 with 24 doubles, 26 homers and 82 RBI. It will be fun to see how the 26 year old responds with a full season of health. I would consider drafting Bay in the 14th round.
CF – Matt Lawton
The 33 year old former Twins OF is another player who was, I believe, unjustly criticized as having a bad year. In 2004, Lawton hit .277/.366/.421 with 25 doubles, 20 homers and 70 RBI. He stole 23 bases. He walked 74 times, with 84 strikeouts. Lawton is the type of player who often gets overlooked in fantasy ball. He doesn’t do anything great, but he hits for some average, has great plate discipline and runs well. To me, he should be taken by the 16th round.
RF – Rob Machowiak
Machowiak is another player who did well when he was finally given a regular job. Of course, he played five positions (making it maybe not so ‘regular’, but it is a good thing in fantasy baseball). In 155 games, he hit .246/.319/.420 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 17 homers and 75 RBI. He added 13 stolen bases. I can see the 28 year old continuing to improve, especially with a more consistent position. Consider taking him in the 24th round.
One 2 Watch – Tike Redman
Redman earned the starting centerfield job with a strong showing in 2003. He played in 155 games and hit .280/.310/.374 with 19 doubles, 8 homers and 51 RBI. Not bad numbers, but you would hope that a speedy leadoff-type hitter would get on base more. And Redman’s big skill is stealing bases, and he had just 18 last year. So, will he be the team’s centerfielder or 4th outfielder? Don’t draft him, unless it looks like he’s going to be the starter, then still wait until the 28th round.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good - Bay.
The Bad – A lot of veterans without a lot of career numbers.
The Question Marks – Can Bay get past the whole ‘sophomore slump’ thing? Which Matt Lawton will show up? Can Jack Wilson come near his 2004 numbers? Can Craig Wilson and Rob Machowiak be as good in regular jobs?
St Louis Cardinals
C – Yadier Molina/Einar Diaz
Yes, another of the catching Molina Brothers will be in the big leagues. Yadier is just 22 and played in 51 games last year of the Cardinals. He hit .267 with 6 doubles, 2 homers and 15 RBI. Throughout his four years in the minor leagues, Molina has hit for some average, and for some power. Honestly, I would predict him to be very similar to Bengie Molina. If he gets 130 games played this year, he’s probably worth a 19th round pick. Diaz is good defensively. He must be because he has a career OPS of .656. He has never had a higher OPS than .715. Don’t draft him!
1B – Albert Pujols
Pujols played most of 2004 with plantar fasciitis. And he hit .331/.415/.657 with 51 doubles, 46 homers and 123 RBI. In his four year career, the ahem… 25 year old Pujols has hit .333/.413/.624 with an average of 47 doubles, 40 homers and 126 RBI. You could use a lot of superlatives to describe Pujols. However, the best way to describe him to fantasy baseball people would be just to say that he should probably be the #1 overall pick.
2B – Mark Grudzielanek
Last year the 34 year old Grudzielanek played in just 81 games for the Cubs because of a bad Achilles Tendon. He hit .307/.347/.432 with 12 doubles, 6 homes and 23 RBI. If you were to just double those numbers (to a full season), they would be respectable. However, with this lineup, I would expect even more from him. I also think his RBI and runs scored would be higher. I think as a 2B, he becomes valuable by the 14th round.
3B – Scott Rolen
The 6-4, 240 pound, 29 year old, Hall of Fame caliber 3B was hobbled by leg injuries much of last year too. His numbers? .314/.409/.598 with 32 doubles, 34 homers and 124 RBI, in 142 games. I would rank Rolen on top of the 3B in baseball, along with A-Rod, and just ahead of Beltre. Take him in the 3rd round.
SS – David Eckstein
After the Angels non-tendered Eckstein, the Cardinals inexplicably signed the vastly over-rated 30 year old to a three year deal worth more than $10 million. Last year, in 142 games, Eckstein hit just .276/339/.332 with 24 doubles, 2 homers and 35 RBI. He did steal 16 bases, but you did see that .672 OPS, right? Likely hitting high in this order, his ability to get on base could mean a lot of runs scored. I wouldn’t take Eckstein until the 24th round.
LF – Reggie Sanders
For the first time since 1997-98, Reggie Sanders will be playing on opening day with the same team. When looking at him, it is only necessary to look at his career averages of .267/.344/.488 because he is a very consistent player with his OPS ranging from the upper .700s to the lower .900s. He’ll hit about 25 doubles and 25 homers. The lone problem with Sanders is that he has missed anywhere from 22 to 60 games a year. For that reason alone, he should fall to the 22nd round.
CF – Jim Edmonds
I think that Edmonds is so overrated defensively that he is vastly underrated offensively. Sure, he strikes out a ton (and walks too), but last year he had his best season with the bat. He hit .301/.418/.643 (OPS - 1.061) with 38 doubles, 42 homers and 111 RBI. At 34 years old, there is no reason to believe that Edmonds can’t put up similar numbers. He is worth taking in the 6th round.
RF – Larry Walker
In 82 total games last year between Colorado and St. Louis, Walker hit .298/.424/.589 with 16 doubles, 17 homers and 49 RBI. Six of the last eight seasons, Walker has had an OPS of 1.000. The problem, of course, is that Walker just has not shown an ability to stay healthy. If he can, he is one of the league’s best hitters and worth a 4th round pick. But because of the injury risk, wait until the 12th round.
One 2 Watch – John Gall
In 2003, Gall had a huge season at AAA, and then the Cards moved Pujols to 1B. So Gall was moved to the OF and had another big year in 2004 and now the Cards OF is full. But Gall continues to hit over .300 with some power. Because of the injury risks to Sanders and Walker, Gall could finally get called up this year.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Pujols, Edmonds and Walker.
The Bad - Catcher, and middle infield.
The Question Marks – Is it even possible for Pujols to do better? Can anyone in the outfield stay healthy? Can the middle infielders be good enough defensively to make up for their poor offense?
Well, that is it for Part 4 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. Next up, I will discuss the National League East Division. Please let me know what you think. Any comments or suggestions would be welcomed! E-mail me.
Here are just a few other sites that I noticed over the past few days:
Tyler Baker was the site's 100,000th visitor yesterday morning!
Jim Mecir has a club foot. Chad Bentz was born without much of his right hand. Antonio Alfonseca has six fingers and six toes on each foot and hand. All three pitches will likely be in the Florida Marlins bullpen. Great story!
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is here. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues is here!
The NHL has cancelled its season. Ah Shucks, huh?!!? We missed it so!
The Wolves won their second in a row, with a home win against the Cavs. Lebron James had 26 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. The Wolves were led by Wally Szczerbiak with 26 points. Kevin Garnett had 20 points, 18 rebounds and 6 assists.
And on that note, I wish you a great Friday and a wonderful weekend!. If you have any questions or comments on anything you have read above, please e-mail me.
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