Wednesday, March 15, 2006
American Idol Thoughts
American League East Pitchers
Good morning everyone! Well, it has been awhile, but the Fantasy Perspective series is back today with a look at the American League East Pitchers. I apologize for the delay, but enough has happened in the world of baseball and in the real world to cause such a delay, and I do apologize for it. Also today, we have my thoughts on Round 1 of the American Idol finalists. How did the contestants do, and what were my thoughts? Well, you'll have to check it out below. And finally, the Twins made some roster cuts yesterday, and I will briefly touch on each of them. I hope you enjoy today's article, and please feel free to e-mail me or leave Comments. Thanks!
Today, I will dive into the AL East division pitchers in Part 9 of my Fantasy Perspective series. If you would like more detail on why I want to do this series as well as some of the thoughts that go into my 2006 Projections, please click here.
If you have any questions or comments about what I write here, or regarding your league, please e-mail me. If you would be fun, feel free to ask questions or comment on anything down below in the Comments section.
Disclaimer: What you read below are simply my opinions. Obviously I have no knowledge of what will happen in the 2006 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.
To this point, I have only done my look at the:
Top 20 Impact Rookie Hitters for 2006
Top 20 Impact Rookie Pitchers for 2006
American League West Hitters
American League Central Hitters
American League East Hitters
National League West Hitters
National League Central Hitters
National League East Hitters
American League West Pitchers
American League Central Pitchers
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST PITCHERS
This is a very interesting pitching division. It is tough to know what to expect because it is clearly the strongest offensive division. The Red Sox and Yankees both have very strong pitching staffs, but both are filled with question marks and injury concerns. The Yankees bullpen is stacked. The Orioles have a couple of bad pitchers, but also have a few guys with plenty of potential. The Blue Jays have a few really good pitchers whose numbers may not be reflected that way because of the division. They also spent too much money on some major mediocrity. And then there are the Devil Rays, who have a very solid lineup, but not much pitching. But they do have some pitching prospects.
So, lets 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.
SP Rodrigo Lopez
A year ago, Lopez made 35 starts and threw 209 innings. Both were career highs. He won 15 games (with 12 losses), but his ERA was a robust 4.90! Many talk about how good Leo Mazzone can be for a pitchign staff. I think that he could really help a guy like Lopez more than a hard thrower like Cabrera. Lopez doesn't throw as hard, but he seems to be smart with the pitches that he has. If he can, maintain good control and hit that outside corner with consistency, Lopez could actually earn those 15 wins. Lopez is a pitcher for the Mexico team in the WBC.
SP Kris Benson
How much of a distraction must Anna Benson be? Benson was not great in 2005, but 10-8 with a 4.13 is not horrible either. It is league-average at worst. He did miss some starts with an injury though. He would probably be a good third starter for most teams. He will be an improvement for the O's. But let's not get crazy and expect too much either. Benson is a league-average pitcher and, of course, league-average in the AL will probably be about a 4.60 ERA and a.500 record.
SP Daniel Cabrera
I agree with the masses in thinking that Daniel Cabrera is about to bust out into one of the better pitchers in the league. Not because of Leo Mazzone though. Just because of the peripherals. Cabrera is just 24 years old. He made 29 starts and threw only 161.1 innings. Now, much of the reason for the low innings was because of his frustrating inconsistency. If Mazzone can do anything for him, it would be to help with consistency. However, Cabrera can throw 98 mph. He struck out almost a batter an inning. The big thing is that he needs to work on his control. Cabrera is a pitcher for the Dominican Republic in the WBC.
SP Erik Bedard
The 27 year old Canadian's only problem has been an ability to remain healthy. Last year, he made 24 starts, but missed a couple of months with injury. When healthy, the lefty has an an array of quality pitches, particularly a fastball and a slider. Last year, in 142.2 innings, he was 6-8 with a 4.00 ERA. He has struck out almost eight per nine innings in his brief career. If he can remain healthy, which is a big IF, this could be a career year for Bedard, but in the AL East, that is still difficult to judge into a W-L record, or even an ERA. I'll project 10-11 with a 3.77 ERA
SP Bruce Chen
Chen was one of the lone bright spots for Team Panama in the WBC. He was also a big bright spot for the O's in 2005. After years of disappointing team after team, Chen came to the O's late in 2004 and did very well in seven starts. He remained in the O's rotation all of 2005. He made 32 starts and threw 197+ innings. He went 13-10 with a 3.83 ERA. It is hard for me to imagine that he would be that good in 2004. I think a return to sub-standard is likely. However, he is just 28 years old, so maybe he has found his niche.
Closer Chris Ray
With the trade of Jorge Julio, the team has stated that Ray will be their closer. Competition could come from former Twin LaTroy Hawkins. 24 year old Ray was the team's 3rd round pick in 2003 out of the College of William & Mary. He did a nice job as as starter in 2004 in two Class A stops. Last year was his first season in the bullpen. He had a 0.96 ERA in 30 AA games when he was called up to the Orioles. With the big club, he got into 41 games and went 1-3 with a 2.66 ERA. He struck out 43 in 40.2 innings. He should do just fine in the closer's role, meaning he is worth drafting at some point.
One 2 Watch Hayden Penn/Adam Loewen
21 year old O's pitcher, Hayden Penn, made eight starts for the O's last season (at age 20). He went 3-2 with a 6.34 ERA. I think that Penn could have a great future, but I also don't think that he is quite ready and another year in the minors would be good for his development. Loewen was the team's first round pick in 2002 (4th overall). His problem so far in his career has been control. Last year, in a move up from low to high A, his strikeouts increased a little, to just over one per inning. His walks did decrease, however, it is still almost 5.5 walks per nine innings. Loewen, and the O's, hope that his Win over the USA in the WBC for Canada is not the highlight of his 2006 season.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good Lopez and Cabrera
The Bad The rest of the starting rotation and the fact they are in this division..
Three Questions What will the Mazzone Effect really be? Can Chris Ray handle the closer's job? Can Cabrera really become a star?
Boston Red Sox
SP Curt Schilling
He pitched on that bad ankle, to give the Red Sox their first World Series championship in 87 years in 2004. Even with the bloody ankle, he did enough to help the team win. And, it may have cost him the rest of his career. Will he ever be 100% healthy again? Last year was a lost year for him. He missed half of the season still trying to come back. He spent lots of time rehabbing in the minors. He came back and went to the bullpen. In all, he pitched in 32 games. He went 8-8 with a 5.69 ERA. He was also the closer for a little while and had nine saves in 11 attempts. So, how healthy is Schilling? If that ankle is alright, the 39 year old righty could again become a top pitcher. But, does he have it left in him? We will find out.
SP Josh Beckett
Beckett has been in the majors in each of the past five seasons. He has already been a World Series MVP. He has already spent so much time on the disabled list, primarily with blisters on his pitching hand. And yet, he is still just 25 years old. So, what will he do now that he is with the Red Sox? Well, the assumption is that when pitchers go to the Red Sox or Yankees that they will suddenly reach superstar status, but how often does it happen? Also, if you believe some reports, Beckett's arm/shoulder could fall off at any time. I think he can be great, but he has to stay healthy and we will see how pitching in the AL affects him too.
SP Matt Clement
Clement was one of those guys who always had excellent peripheral numbers, yet was not even able to maintain a .500 record. Well, he came to the Red Sox, and yes, he went 13-6, but his ERA was just 4.57. He struck out 2.50 less batters per nine innings. In the offseason, the Sox tried to trade the 31 year old Clement, but could find no takers. I still think that Clement can be very good. Maybe this is the year.
SP Tim Wakefield
39 year old Wakefield is now in his 13th season with the Red Sox. Every year, they decide whether hell start of come out of the pen. And most years, he does great in whatever role they pick. Last year, he made 33 starts. In 2005, he was 16-12 with a 4.15 ERA. Just as important, he gave the Sox 225.1 innings. The knuckle baller strikes out just 5.5 per 9 innings. I think he is a guy who could end up back in the pen this year, so I would have to be cautious about taking him. But he will start the season in the rotation and will likely get run support, so he is still worth a fantasy pick.
SP Bronson Arroyo
29 year old Arroyo made 32 starts for the Red Sox a year ago. This offseason, he took less money to stay in Boston. He wants to stay and play unlike another starter. Keep Arroyo and deal whoever else. Now, he's not great. Last year, he was 14-10 with a 4.51 ERA, very league average. He also went over 200 innings which, if you're in a league looking for wins and innings, is very important. He doesn't strike many out, but he walks very, very few. He's probably not a guy you want to be more than a 5th starter on your team, but he could be a sleeper type.
SP David Wells
Is the 42 year old Wells even worth hanging onto? Well, those that look at Win-Loss record probably see that he was 15-7 last year and think he was good. No, not at all. His ERA was at 4.47, about league average. He doesn't want to be in Boston. Trading Wells would be addition by subtraction as one of the team's phenoms, Jonathan Papelbon, would likely enter the team's rotation.
Closer Keith Foulke/Mike Timlin
Foulke has deemed himself healthy after missing half of 2005 with injuries. Even when he did pitch, he wasn't right. Last year, his ERA was 5.91. His ERA in the previous six seasons was always under 3.00. Assuming he is healthy, the 33 year old should get closer to those numbers. If not, Mike Timlin has been one of the most consistent relievers in baseball and has filled in admirably in the closer's role when needed.
Three 2 Watch Jonathan Papelbon/Jon Lester/Craig Hansen
Papelbon is ready. He was a vital part of the team's bullpen late last season and in the playoffs. If the Sox are able to pull off a trade of one of their starters, Papelbon likely moves into the rotation. If not, he will again dominate out of the bullpen. Craig Hansen was the team's 1st round pick in 2005 out of St. Johns. He got up to the big leagues for a couple of games late last year. He is probably the closer of the future for the club, but he could be in the team's bullpen at some point this year, maybe even on Opening Day as he is having an excellent spring. Lester is a big, tall, lefty starter who is definitely a top prospect after a great 2005 season. He will likely start at AA, move up to AAA, and could be ready for big league action by midseason.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good The future of those three young pitchers. Healthy Schilling and Beckett.
The Bad Age and injury questions in the rotation.
Question Marks Will Schilling ever be the same? How different will the starting rotation look in August? How long can Beckett stay healthy?
New York Yankees
SP Randy Johnson
Johnson is a pitcher that most fantasy owners are not sure what to think about heading into this season. On the one hand, he has been one of the most dominant starters for the past dozen seasons. Last year, he went 17-8 and struck out 211 hitters in 226 innings. However, his 3.79 ERA is higher than it has been in a healthy season since 1991. His 8.4 K/9 is the lowest it has been since 1990. Also, his 32 homers allowed led all AL pitchers. So, will he relax in New York in his second season with the team, or is he simply now 42 years old and on the down slope. Personally, I think that his 2006 numbers will be slightly, but not significantly, better than 2005.
SP Mike Mussina
It is hard to believe that Mussina will be just 37 years old throughout the 2006 season. He has missed time the last two years, and in honesty, just has not been the same pitcher. Last year, he was 13-8 with a 4.41 ERA, very pedestrian. Of course, any starter for the Yankees will have a chance at some wins this year as the offense will continue to be very strong. Mussina is in his final year with the Yankees. I can't believe that the team would pick up his huge 2007 option with his current productivity. Because of his team, he is worth taking late in any draft.
SP Shawn Chacon
After toiling with the Colorado Rockies for the first four and a half years of his big league career. He was a starter, then the closer and had moved back to starter in 2005. He was traded to the Yankees, and I remember thinking that the Yankees had picked up another expensive arm without much talent. I was wrong. Chacon did a great job with the Yankees and in twelve starts, he went 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA. It was so out of character for Chacon's career. His career ERA is 4.90. So, which Chacon will show up this year? Well, he showed enough that he has to be given a shot in the rotation. I don't think he will approach that 2.85 ERA, but I think that he can stay at or near 4.00. If he can do that, he could approach 15 wins.
SP Chien-Ming Wang
I think that Wang had done enough to warrant a spot in the rotation as well. He did have a shoulder injury that cost him a couple of months last year, but when he pitched, he did well. In 17 starts, he went 8-5 with a 4.02 ERA. He never was a big strikeout pitcher throughout his minor league career, but in his 116.1 innings with the Yankees last year, he struck out just 47. That said, he only walked 32. Again, if he can keep an ERA near 4.00, it is feasible he could win 15 games.
SP Carl Pavano
Reason #1,506 that the AJ Burnett 5 year, $55 million contract from the Blue Jays was terrible... Carl Pavano. After a 2004 season in which he went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA, Pavano was the top free agent pitcher of the off-season. He got $22 million from the Yankees. He proceeded to go 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA. His WHIP jumped to 1.47. Also, he made just 17 starts and did not pitch late in the season or in the post-season. He has to be given another shot at the rotation, and if the New York fans and media were nice once in awhile, Pavano could relax and would probably pitch well. I wonder if he has it in him.
Closer Mariano Rivera
"Every year, I want to diminish what Rivera does because I get tired of hearing how great he has been in the post-season. And then Rivera has arguably his best season in 2004." I write that every year about Rivera. He was great in 2004... he was even better in 2005! He pitched 78.1 innings in 71 games. He was 7-4 with a 1.38 ERA and another 43 saves. In other words, the 36 year old really is that good. The assumption is that he'll slide. I guess we'll have to believe it when we see it.
Two 2 Watch Aaron Small/Jaret Wright
Small signed his first pro baseball contract in 1989. He had cups of coffee with the Blue Jays in 1994, the Marlins in 1995, the A's in 1996, 1997 and 1998, the Diamondbacks in 1998, the Braves in 2002 and the Marlins again in 2004. He had pitched in less than 220 innings in the big leagues before 2005. He made starts at AA and AAA last year before the Yankees called. He pitched in fifteen games and made nine starts, and he went a remarkable 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA. What a story. However, he struck out about one every other inning, and his role will likely be in the Yankees bullpen in 2006 unless there is an injury. He will be joined by Jaret Wright, he is the craziest signing of the last offseason. Coming off of his only healthy season, Wright got three years and $21 million from the Yankees, and guess what? That's right, he got hurt. And, he will be an expensive bullpen piece for the Yankees... if healthy.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good - Possibly Johnson, and definitely Rivera.
The Bad Starters, aside from Wang, are old and injury risks.
The Question Marks How will Pavano and Wright follow-up their 2005 seasons? Can Johnson and Mussina stay healthy all year? How long can Rivera keep this up?
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
SP Scott Kazmir
The Rays got the 22 year old Kazmir from the Mets for Victor Zambrano. I still cant believe that the Mets gave up Kazmir for a decent righty with control problems. He was the 15th overall pick in 2002 out of high school. Last year was his first full big league season and he did very admirably. He made 32 starts for the team and went 10-9 with a 3.77 ERA. In 186 innings, he struck out 176, a very good number, especially for such a young pitcher. However, his one area for improvement is his control. He did walk 100 hitters. His value very much depends on the type of league you're in. If it's a keeper league, don't be afraid to draft him. If it's a league based on stats a pitcher can control, he is fine, but the dumb Wins stat could hurt his value.
SP Mark Hendrickson
The 31 year old former NBA power forward made 31 starts in 2005 for the Rays. He went 11-8, but his ERA was a very poor 5.91. In 178.1 innings, he struck out just 89 and walked 49. Opponents hit .311 off of him. He is a soft-throwing lefty who gets hit very hard. Just not a good combination and not someone you would want on your fantasy team.
SP Casey Fossum
Fossum spent years being a prospect for the Red Sox, but he never panned out for them. He was shipped to Arizona and spent the 2004 season there and really struggled. He went to the Devil Rays last year and showed a lot of improvement. Yes, he was just 8-12 with a 4.92 ERA, but his K-rate was a decent 7.4. Opponents batting average against him dropped by over .040 points. If he gets a rotation spot and can start out well, he could finally reach some of his potential. That said, I don't think I would draft him!
SP Doug Waechter
25 year old Waechter went 5-12 with a 5.62 ERA a year ago. He is another non-strikeout pitcher with limited stuff and limited potential. He is just filling space until the Rays young pitching prospects are ready.
SP Seth McLung
McLung missed the entire 2004 season after shoulder surgery. He came back in 2005 and made 34 appearances (17 starts). He went 7-11 with a 6.59. Unlike Waechter, I think that McLung showed enough in his younger years that he could put up decent numbers, with last year being just his first-year-back season. That said, I wouldn't want to draft him!
Closer Chad Orvella
Orvella was the team's 13th round pick in 2003 out of NC State. He has been groomed to be a closer since. He started last year at AA and did well (16 games, 0.36 ERA in 25 innings), so he got called up to the Devil Rays. He showed team officials enough that the team was willing to trade Lance Carter and Danys Baez this winter. In 37 games, he went 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA. He will have to improve his control as he had 23 walks in 50 innings (43 walks). Like Chris Ray, Orvella should be alright as long as he maintains his control.
One 2 Watch Edwin Jackson
In late 2003, Jackson made his big league debut in style by beating Randy Johnson. Expectations skyrocketed for the 19 year old. He was almost given a big league job in 2004 and he failed. In 2005, he really struggled in AAA and was sent back to AA. He came back up to the Dodgers in September and made 6 starts. The key to remember is that he is still just 22 years old and has tremendous stuff. He may make the team out of training camp. He will them be the first in a line of quality starting pitching prospects that includes Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann, Chuck Tiffany and more.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good Kazmir and his future.
The Bad Pretty much everything else!
Three Questions How many runs will this staff give up in the AL East? Can Edwin Jackson perform up to expectations? How will Orvella handle the closer's role?
Toronto Blue Jays
SP Roy Halladay
When healthy, Halladay has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last three years. When Halladay's 2005 season came to an abrupt end on a line drive back at him, he had made 19 starts and was the odds-on favorite for the AL Cy Young. He was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP at the time. The year before, his season ended after 21 starts with a sore arm. (Brad Arnsberg... ahem) He gets abused. In his 19 starts last year, he had five complete games! I like Halladay, but I would be afraid to draft him too high just because of how he is used.
SP A. J. Burnett
The worst free agent signing of the year, the Blue Jays signed Burnett to a 5 year, $55 million deal after he went 12-12 with a 3.44 ERA. He also was sent home by the Marlins for the last week or so of the 2005 season because he spouted off about the Marlins and the manager. Sounds like a guy you want on your team, much less making that kind of money. Add in the fact that he had Tommy John surgery in mid-2003 and missed half of 2004 as well. Yes, he is back with Brad Arnsberg... the pitching coach who helped wear him out in Florida. Add in about 1/2 run on the ERA, and his ERA will be about 4.00. Yeah, that's worth $55 million, right?
SP Ted Lilly
It seems like Lilly has been around forever. Well, kind of. He did make his big league debut in 1999 with the Expos. Last year for the Jays, he only threw 126.1 innings in 25 starts. First, he missed a few starts with injury, but also, that is only an average of five innings per start. That is not good! Neither is the 10-11 record, or the 5.56 ERA, or the 1.53 WHIP. I think we can expect more from him in 2006, maybe an ERA closer to 4.50, but he is not really a pitcher you want on your fantasy team.
SP Gustavo Chacin
Remember, that Chacin came out of the Jays AA bullpen in 2004 and ended up winning 20 games between AA, AAA and the big leagues that year. He made the Jays rotation last year and made 34 starts. He pitched in 204 innings. He struck out 121 but also walked 70. Opponents hit .274 off of him. Yet somehow, he went 13-9 with a 3.79 ERA, a very solid first season with a nice ERA. I'm not at all sold on the 25 year old southpaw. He needs to prove it again in 2006 for me to believe he's real.
SP Josh Towers
29 year old Josh Towers finally had a bust-out season for the Jays. Although he had big league time the previous four years, last year was his first full-time job. He made 33 starts and went 13-12 with a great 3.71 ERA. He also went 209.2 innings. He should be able to duplicate, or even better slightly, those numbers. He is not a strikeout pitcher, so watch him early to see how much he is being hit.
Closer BJ Ryan
Ryan has been one of the better lefty relievers the last few seasons. Last year, he was finally given the Orioles closer job and did a nice job. He was 1-4 with 36 saves and a 2.43 ERA. His WHIP was 1.14. Now, I am a big believer in Ryan and think he will do a very nice job closing games. However, in terms of fantasy, be sure not to draft him too early because there are at least five or six other closers to take ahead of him.
One 2 Watch Dustan McGowan
McGowan was one of the bigger pitching prospects heading into the 2004 season. Two years ago, I compared him prospect-wise to the Twins JD Durbin. Unfortunately, McGowan needed Tommy John surgery and was out for the year after just six games. Hes still just 23 years old. Last year, while recovering, he did a nice job pitching out of the bullpen. Because of the makeup of the starting staff, it is possible that McGowan would return to the bullpen.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good Halladay... if healthy, and Ryan.
The Bad possibly as much as the final 60% of the starting staff.
Three Questions How will Burnett respond to the contract and all the pressures associated with it? Can Chacin and Towers back up excellent 2005 seasons? Can Halladay stay healthy?
Well, that is it for Part 9 of my Fantasy Baseball Preview. I hope youve enjoyed it. The same format will be used next when I discuss the NL West pitching staffs. Please let me know what you think. Any comments or suggestions would be welcomed! E-mail me.
Happy News for Twins fans everywhere... Team Venezuela was eliminated last night by the Dominican Republic. They will play one more game, but Johan Santana will not pitch any more for the team. He should report back to Twins camp by the end of the week!
The other day, John Sickels posted a Nostalgia Prospect Retro on former Twins OF Tom Brunansky.
I watched about an inning of the Twins/Phillies game yesterday on my lunch break. Little did I know that it would be replayed on FSN last night. Those that watched it got a chance to see Chris Coste single to center field on a 3-2 pitch from Ricky Barrett. Earlier in the day, the Twins coaches, manager and GM met with several players who were sent back to minor league camp. In most cases, this was a formality really. But there were a couple of surprises. Here are the guys that were sent to minor league camp, how they did this spring, and what their hopes may be.
JD Durbin - Optioned to Rochester. Durbin, I'm sure, really wanted to have a strong spring to show that 2005 was an aberration. Well, he had pitched five innings in four games this spring. He allowed 10 hits and four walks while striking out just three. His ERA was 16.20. I know Spring Training games don't mean a lot, but for Durbin, this spring was important, and an early return to minor league camp has to be disappointing. He will likely start the season in Rochester's rotation, but if he doesn't rebound, a move to the bullpen is likely.
Pat Neshek - Optioned to Rochester. Neshek, on the other hand, came to camp as a 40 man guy trying to just show that he belonged and could handle big league camp and get big league hitters out. I definitely think that he did that. I think that he showed that if the team has an injury in the bullpen, Neshek could be recalled and be successful. I am surprised though that Neshek was sent down already. The night before, he had thrown two shutout innings. In four games, he had thrown 5.2 shutout innings, allowing just two hits, two HBP and a walk. My reason for surprise is that he does appear to be very close, and Juan Rincon's injury has to be a question mark. But Neshek will be fine. He will be the closer at Rochester and be ready at any time, for sure by September. Be sure to go to Pat's website to read about his meeting with coaches to tell him he had been sent back to minor league camp.
Alex Romero - Optioned to Rochester. Romero was just 1-12 this spring in eight games. I am sure he would have liked to have had more success to impress the coaches. But again, he was not going to make the opening day roster. He will go to Rochester and play every day. I do believe that a September call-up will happen this year, and he could contend for the left field job that should be vacated by Shannon Stewart in 2007.
Errol Simonitsch - Optioned to New Britain. Simonitsch will start this season in the Rockcats starting rotation, the same place he ended 2005. He did well in his four outings. He gave up just one run in five innings (1.80 ERA). He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out three. He should move up to Rochester by season's end.
Adam Harben - Optioned to New Britain. He spent all of 2005 at Ft. Myers, so a jump to AA was expected. He threw 5.1 innings in three games and was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA. He gave up five hits, walked two and struck out three. Harben will probably spend the entire season at New Britain and if he can continue to improve his control, he will do well.
Justin Jones - Optioned to New Britain. Like Harben, Jones spent all of 2005 at Ft. Myers, so the move up to New Britain is natural. I don't think that there is anything wrong with Jones or his stuff. To date, remaining healthy has been his only problem. (hey, do the Twins have any history of success in acquiring oft-injured left-handed starting pitchers in trades?) If he can stay healthy, I expect him to have a solid AA season. This spring, he pitched six shutout innings over three outings. He gave up six hits and walked two while striking out four.
Jose Mijares - Optioned to New Britain. Mijares made himself noticed this spring. First, he isn't tall, and I think it is safe to say that he might be a little on the chunky side. But he does throw hard, throw strikes and mixes it up very well. He pitched five innings in four outings. He allowed a run on three hits. He walked none and struck out three. Mijares burst onto the scene last year between Beloit and Ft. Myers. His impressive spring puts him currently on the New Britain roster. If that is the case, he will pitch out of the bullpen. If they decide to return him to Ft. Myers, he could start... maybe.
Tommy Watkins - Assigned to minor league camp. Watkins came to his first big league training camp. In eight games, he went 0-8 with three strikeouts. But, the coaching staff and players know Watkins. They also know that he is excellent defensively at three infield positions. It is likely that Watkins will be pushed to Rochester as a utility player. If not, he will go back to New Britain for the third straight season.
Denard Span - Assigned to minor league camp. Span was invited to camp to be seen by coaches. He had a strong season last year between Ft. Myers and New Britain. His play will probably, in part, determine whether the team will pick up Torii Hunter's option for 2007. I was impressed first by Span's speed. We had all heard about it, but to see it is impressive. I was also impressed by his approach at the plate. He is patient, and takes a lot of pitches. He does have a very nice, level swing. Based on his lack of extra base hits, it was almost assumed that he swung wimpy, like Cristian Guzman used to. But he does have a nice, strong, quick swing that should mean plenty of doubles and triples in time. This spring, he batted .250/.438/.333 with four walks and one strikeout (a rate that I LOVE!). He will probably start the season at New Britain, and if he starts out well, a move up to Rochester is expected.
Kevin West - Assigned to minor league camp. I am not sure why he is included on this list. He was signed to another minor league contract. He injured his knee playing in Venezuela and is expected to miss a couple of months of the season. Hopefully he will be happy and hitting for power at Rochester soon!
Kyle Phillips - Assigned to minor league camp. Phillips was probably just another catcher invited to camp for bullpen duties. He got just two at bats over five spring games, so he wasn't really being viewed as an option for the Twins of any kind. He should spend 2006 in New Britain.
Any other thoughts on the Twins, let me know. Send me an e-mail. Or, leave some comments below.
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Last night was the first night of the Final 12 on American Idol. The competition has been good, but we are now to the 12 contestants who will spend their summer touring as a group. Of course, as has been the case each season, there are a few who should not be in the same category as a couple of others, but that's what makes the competition fun. And, how America votes is always an interesting proposition. Last night was Stevie Wonder Night. Each contestant had to sing a Stevie song. I am a big Stevie fan. Primarily for I Just Called to Say I Love You, but I really enjoy Part Time Lover. He has just had such a distinguished career.
There were 16 people who are participating in my fantasy American Idol contest. I will post some statistics from our group about what we anticipate will happen with the Final 12 in this spot later in the day when I compile them, so check back.
Alright, as promised, I would update you on the results of our American Idol contest. As I said, 16 people turned in their predictions to me before the show aired last night. Here is a quick look at the average ranking for each contestant as well as their high and low ranking. As you can see, some people are pretty concise within a small range, and others including Ace Young run all the way from winning this thing to being done tonight. Chris Daughtry led the way. He received five first place votes. Mandisa got three first place votes. Paris, Lisa and Ace each got two first place votes and Taylor and Katharine each got one.
But for now, let's get to some American Idol Analysis.
Ace Young - Do I Do
Going into this, I thought, based on Ace's Michael Jackson performance last week, that Ace would do very well with Stevie Wonder. He got off to a horrible start, and it did not get better at all throughout the song. I think he was flat pretty much the whole song. I was waiting for him to pull it together, but he just never really did. It was a very bad performance.
Kellie Pickler - Blame it on the Sun
Proof positive that Kellie's act is just that, an act. She admitted to knowing little about Stevie Wonder in her interview, and then we saw her breaking into tears when Stevie was brought in to see the group. Clearly, this was a bad type of music for Kellie's country bumpkin voice. And then she picked either a bad song for her, or for the competition. It was so boring. Vocally, she was OK when she tried to be country, but she showed absolutely zero energy. Well, until she was done and she was working the act for the audience.
Elliott Yamin - Knocks me off my Feet
Now, when Elliot cried upon meeting Stevie Wonder, you could tell it was real. I wish they would have showed him playing on the keyboard with Stevie. That would have been enjoyable to watch. I was really expecting a lot, and vocally, I think Elliot came through. He was very good, but I never felt Wowed by it at all. He does have a strong voice which should carry him for about a month, and after that, things could get iffy.
Mandisa - Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing
From Mandisa, I really expected Wow. It really didn't happen until about halfway through the song. Vocally, she wasn't perfect. She was off a few times, but it was really a lot of fun to see her really enjoying performing. She is a talent with a great voice.
Bucky Covington - Superstitions
I never really expect much when it is Bucky's turn to perform, so last night I had to admit that I was surprisingly pleased. He maybe sang it too much like Stevie did in terms of the tune. However, he did make it his own by staying in his vocal comfort zone. He made it rock just a little bit without going overboard. He moved around on stage well, however, he clearly is not a natural up there. I did enjoy his throwing of the microphone between his hands.
Melissa McGhee - Lately
I thought that she started out a little slow. Her "smoky" voice is really intriguing and makes you listen, but I'm not sure whether I think it is good or not. The song was enough different from the original, but similar enough to make it recognizable too. I felt that she shouted a little bit on some of the louder parts, and she was flat in a few parts as well. Also, she made the cardinal mistake of missing lyrics, although she handled it well. And yes, I am a fan of the dress.
Lisa Tucker - Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Lisa is definitely my favorite to win it all. I realize that goes against conventional thinking going into the final 12, but I'll stick with her. She is so good on-stage. As Simon said, she worked the stage with control and confidence. Vocally, she was excellent. She has such a strong, deep voice. This song manages to make an American Idol appearance every year, but I was really impressed with Lisa on it. She's got the look. She is a natural and really looked like she had a lot of fun.
Kevin Covais - Part Time Lover
Love the song. It is so anti-Kevin that it is comical. Now, I enjoy watching Kevin sing and perform as much as anyone, but the reason, for me, is because he is so bad. I understand that Randy and Paula really love him, but at some point a little reality needs to set in. Kevin is a good singer for a 16 year old, but there is no way that he should even be this far. Simon many times will say that a performance is something that you could hear at any karaoke bar, and I really believe that this was a performance that fits that category. He needs to go, but don't worry, I'm sure he won't.
Katharine McPhee - Until You Come Back to Me
Have to admit, I was not a big fan of the dress! In previous weeks, I liked her voice, but she just did not look natural on stage which may have overshadowed her voice. Last night, I think that she really showed how good she is. She has a great voice and showed great range and strength. I wouldn't say that I got the Wow Factor, but she was very good.
Taylor Hicks - Living for the City
Vocally, Taylor is really very good. She showed a very strong, very deep voice. Last night, I really felt that he was more controlled vocally and that is a good thing. Now, as for the rest... I do not think that Taylor is a great performer. I do believe that he has great energy and truly loves to sing and be on stage. That is what makes him a fun performer and a great entertainer. I thought that Simon's "Drunk Dad" analogy was really perfect!
Paris Bennett - All I Do
Paris is good, but I had thought that Lisa had really separated herself from Paris in the last couple of weeks. With a Stevie song, I really thought that Paris would be wonderful, and she definitely was! For her voice and style, this is a great genre for her. I don't think that she picked the right song, but I still really liked her voice and her performance a lot!
Chris Daughtry - Higher Ground
Chris is a natural on stage. Vocally, he is very strong. I struggled with where to rank him this week. I think he was good and strong and entertaining, however, there is a difference between making a song your own and completely altering it. I understand that the Red Hot Chili Peppers also did this song, but it was Stevie Wonder Night and the song should have been done a little differently. How? Something to show Stevie while still showing his rock side. I'm not claiming to know how to do that, but that would have jumped him up this list. I still think Chris is great and will be very successful. However, this performance does bring me concern about him. See, throughout the next weeks, the singers will have to chose songs from many different genres. I think that the purpose of that is to find the best singers and performers, people who are able to cross a couple of genres. I think that Chris needs to find a way to prove that he can sing other types of music with a good voice as well.
SethSpeaks Ranking of the Top 12 Performances (from last night)
1.) Lisa Tucker
2.) Paris Bennett
4.) Taylor Hicks
5.) Katharine McPhee
6.) Elliot Yamin
7.) Chris Daughtry
8.) Bucky Covington
9.) Melissa McGhee
10.) Kellie Pickler
11.) Ace Young
12.) Kevin Covais
Who do I think will be eliminated tonight?
Melissa McGhee - I think that Kevin should go, and I could probably make arguments for both Ace and Kellie, but I don't think any of those three will be gone. Kellie made the cardinal mistake of missing lyrics. I did think that she was very good, but that might be enough, or the deciding factor that voters need to not vote for her.
Again, for further American Idol thoughts, be sure to check out The Baseball Savant and the fine folks of curlio.com because I know we don't always see or hear things the same way. Any thoughts on my American Idol Thoughts? This is where it gets fun, so if you would like, be sure to debate the merits of your favorite contestants below. Or, if you're shy, send me an e-mail.
And on those notes, thank you again very much for stopping by my site. I hope you enjoy what you read, but if you have any questions or comments on anything, please feel free to e-mail me.
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