<$BlogRSDUrl$>

30/09/2003

Payrolls in 2004 

Will your team be spending or selling this offseason? Today's article is a primer on what 15 teams will be doing as a whole in the winter months.

Anaheim- BUYERS- New owner Arturo Moreno is going to spend a lot of money this offseason. The team has spoken about reaching the $90M mark, which is about $20M more than this season. Miguel Tejada is expected to sign here, and the team will also pursue a top starting pitcher free agent. The team will still be smart fiscally, and should non-tender Adam Kennedy when Tejada jumps aboard. Next season expect the Angels to be contenders again, thanks to Tejada protecting Garret Anderson, and an improved starting staff.

ARIZONA-SELLERS- En route to a World Series championship, Jerry Colangelo made some bad decisions. His choices to defer millions of dollars in contracts will hurt the team next season, as they'll have to sell. Expect Junior Spivey and Matt Mantei to be the first one's out the door. The team will investigate trading Curt Schilling, because they will not re-sign him after 2004. Any spare money should be spend acquiring a top-notch right fielder, the only real hole on offense.

ATLANTA- SELLERS- The problem with corporate ownership will be shown with the upcoming Braves offseason. Ya think AOL/Time Warner's troubles correlate to the Braves dropping payroll. Oh yeah. Luckily, the team does not need to trade players to lose payroll, just let some go. Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Darren Holmes, Javy Lopez, and Vinny Castilla combined to make salaries in the $43M range in 2003, and all of them are free agents after the playoffs. Maddux will surely bolt, and I doubt Sheffield will turn down the Yankees. Lopez could be headed elsewhere due to Johnny Estrada, and Darren Holmes will not get big-time money. The Braves may be a player in the free agent market, but there is no way that payroll will near $100M in 2004.

Baltimore- BUYERS- Peter Angelos is finally putting money into his product, now that Major League Baseball threatens to put a team in Washington D.C.. Actually, the team had tons of contracts that didn't matter last year, and this team may have more spending money than anyone else. The Orioles could possibly offer Guerrero $20M per year, and have money to fill the rest of their holes. Albert Belle and Scott Erickson will be stricken from the record books next season, and Baltimore should finally turn a corner.

Boston- BUYERS- Theo Epstein's fantastic season deserves a lot of credit, and may be the reason the team boosts payroll next season. The team surpassed a $100M payroll last year, and should do the same next season. Epstein is going to pursue such starters as Javier Vazquez and Curt Schilling, and probably won't need to take on big salary. And think that this team will be paying Pedro, Nomar, and Manny somewhere in the $50M range. The Red Sox need to be buyers to compete with the Yankees, and as long as Yawkey Way stays crowded, John Henry won't complain.

Chicago Cubs- BUYERS- The Cubs will have roughly $15-20M to spend on players not signed next season, although who knows where they'll spend the money. Miguel Tejada will likely end up in Anaheim, and Andy Pettite should be staying in New York. Pursuing Jose Vidro and Javier Vazquez in a blockbuster trade is one idea, stocking the team with mid-level veterans like Luis Castillo and Ugueth Urbina is another. But don't test Jim Hendry's creativity, he's done enough to prove he'll do anything to win.

Chicago White Sox- NEITHER- The Sox should be looking to sign from within this season, and little else. Rumors have it that Bartolo Colon is about to re-sign, and he's Ken Williams' top priority. The team also wants to re-sign Roberto and Sandy Alomar, Tom Gordon, and possibly Carl Everett. Either Carlos Lee or Paul Konerko should be traded, and Carlos could demand much higher value. But its Frank Thomas that determines the future of the club: will he stay in Chicago for $8M in 2004?

Cincinnati Reds- NEITHER- I put neither because the team already did all of its selling out. This is a club that could legitimately compete in 2004, but management would need to boost payroll about $7M. That won't happen. The fact that Barry Larkin re-signed baffles me, but the Reds often do. Can this team afford Jason La Rue and Richie Sexson, probably not. Are they stuck with them? Quite possibly. Dumping Casey to the Dodgers and signing Kevin Millwood could make this team a contender next season. Instead, they'll be in a war for last place.

Cleveland- NEITHER- Ownership is waiting until the rebuilding plan is over until they allow a boost in payroll. Instead, don't be surprised if the payroll is a little less next season. Danys Baez and Ellis Burks should be goners, giving the team money to fill holes with. Signing a short-term 2B/3B plug is a good idea, as is a innings-eater or two for the rotation. Mark Shapiro is a genius GM, and the Indians should be increasing payroll and wins by 2006.

Colorado Rockies- NEITHER- Don't expect a big difference in Rockie payroll next season. The team should trade Jay Payton away for pitching, allowing Rene Reyes a starting job. Garrett Atkins is ready to start at third, and an improved Mark Bellhorn should be present next year as well. This team needs some starters to step up, and could use a solid closer. But until Todd Helton or Larry Walker stop congesting the payroll, this team will be limited.

DETROIT- NEITHER- Well, it can't get much lower, and there's no way its getting higher. I'll be writing an article later in the week on this team, but there really is no bright spot in the future. They lose the big Dean Palmer contract this season, and stop paying Damion Easley next year. The Tigers should be present in the free agent market, but won't be spending more than $5-10M on roster fillers.

Florida Marlins- BUYERS- I say this hesitantly. The Marlins were buyers during this season, and their payroll won't increase too much next season. But ownership is making strides to improve this team, and doing everything to make baseball work in Florida. I would trade Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, and Brad Penny, to make room for future arbitration dollars. Next year Miguel Cabrera becomes a star...you've been warned.

Houston Astros- SELLERS- Drayton McLane is in financial trouble, and the Astros will suffer as a result. Either Billy Wagner or Richard Hidalgo will be traded this offseason, and there's a possibility both get dealt. Don't expect Brad Ausmus to be re-signed, unless he takes really low numbers. Wagner can easily be replaced by Dotel, and Hidalgo by Jason Lane. To acquire one of these players, the Astros need to add serious starting pitching depth. If Houston hadn't pitched Jeriome Robertson and Ron Villone against Milwaukee, maybe the Cubs wouldn't be in Atlanta right now.

Kansas City- BUYERS- David Glass proved if fans come watch, he'll treat them with respect. The team won't be re-signing Raul Ibanez, but expect Carlos Beltran to be retained. There's a lot of veteran depth on this team, and it will be interesting to watch the future of Rondell White, Joe Randa, Brent Mayne, Brian Anderson, Graeme Lloyd, Curt Leskanic, Al Levine, and Jason Grimsley.

Los Angeles- NEITHER- Until a rich ownership group takes over this team, they won't be adding payroll. Yet the team has the responsibility to adding a lineup to their repertoire, because the pitching is already there. My advice to Dan Evans would be to pursue Richie Sexson will all of his power. The team must also hang onto Hideo Nomo, whom has proven to be the perfect Dodger Stadium pitcher.

OK, really tired....must go to bed.
2003 Playoff Division Series Predictions
Giants in 5
Cubs in 4
Yankees in 4
Red Sox in 5

Peace.

29/09/2003

The 2003-2004 WaTNeY awards 

It's time folks. Today, is the first annual WaTNeY awards, the prize of tomorrow. All of these picks are way far in advance, but if their right, I can honestly say I got it right before anyone else. So here are the awards NONE of you have been waiting for:

WaTNeY for 2004 Breakout Hitter- Aaron Guiel- OF- Royals
Is it wrong for me to think a 30-year-old outfielder with under 600 professional at-bats has big times ahead of him? Nope. Here are Guiel's splits:

Before ASB: .270/.345/.520 in 100AB
After ASB: .284/.351/.484 in 250 AB

So, he's consistent, powerful, and will take his walks. Guiel has twenty doubles and ten home runs after the break, and I'm one to think those doubles will go out of the park next year. While he's only 5'10'', Guiel has a power streak in him. Raul Ibanez should be out of the lineup next year, so Guiel will be in the top five in the order. Expect big things. Guiel's 2004: .280/.350/.500.

Honorable Mention: Mark Teixeira (everyone's pick), Carl Crawford, Criag Wilson (ask Ben Jacobs), Joe Crede, Miguel Cabrera, Aramis Ramirez (going for a second time), and Pedro Feliz.

WaTNeY for 2004 Breakout Pitcher- Adam Eaton- S.D. Padres
Pitchers aren't supposed to be good the year following Tommy John surgery, so 2003 should be looked at positively for Eaton. He finished with a H/IP rate below 9, which is always a good measure of future success. After the All-Star Break he went 5-5, 3.92ERA. He yielded 71 hits in 80.1IP, striking out 59 against 29 walks.

Next season Eaton should be far past Tommy John surgery, and ready for a big step. He won't be good for too many strikeouts, but an ERA around the 3.50 range will be welcome to any fantasy team. And with the explosive San Diego offense, 15 wins isn't out of the realm of possibility.

Honorable Mention- Jake Peavy (Eaton teammate), Oliver Perez (former teammate), Victor Zambrano, Jorge Sosa, Carl Pavano, Darrell May, John Thomson (free agent)

WaTNeY for 2004 Burst Into Superstardom- Vernon Wells- OF
Wells was one of my 2003 breakout players, and he did me good. But when you talk about the best baseball players in the game, Wells name doesn't come up. That's all going to change soon, and Wells will become the best player on his team, in his division. Here's a look at season splits:

Before ASB: .299/.338/.556 in 405AB
After ASB: .348/.392/.548 in 270AB

Yes, Wells hit much less HR/AB after the break as opposed to before. But he hit a lot more doubles, and his K/BB rate improved greatly. He hit 23HR in 2002, and 33HR in 2003. While I'm not sure if 43 for next year is expecting too much, I wouldn't be surprised. How about these 2004 numbers: .330/.400/.550?

WaTNeY for 2004 Step to Superstardom- Josh Beckett- SP
The decision ultimately came down to Beckett, Vazquez, Santana and Contreras. I think all these guys have legitimate Cy Young hopes next year, although Beckett and Vazquez do pitch in Prior's league. Anyway, here is Beckett, Vazquez, Santana, and Prior AFTER THE ALL-STAR BREAK:

Beckett: 6-4 2.55ERA 75H/88.1IP 93K/30BB
Vazquez: 7-6 2.39ERA 84H/105.1IP 102K/22BB
Santana: 8-1 3.13ERA 69H/86.1IP 88K/24BB
Prior: 10-1 1.52ERA 67H/82.2IP 95K/16BB

OK, threw in Prior to make mockery of the other selections. Truly, these are the four arms that I would want more than any in baseball. Yes, that includes those kids in Oakland as well. The only reason I didn't choose Vazquez was that he can make arguments he is a superstar. If Boston or New York trades for him this winter, it will be the best acquisition of the offseason. And yes, that includes Guerrero, Sheffield, and Schilling.

Beckett was a former top prospect, and a reason TINSTAPP isn't true. While it may take top pitching prospects a little longer than hitters, they are worth waiting for. If Florida ends Atlanta's run in dominance in 2004 (I think it'll happen), it will be in no small part thanks to Beckett.

WaTNeY for the Next Great Reliever Award- Ryan Wagner- Cincy
The quickest draft pick to reach the Majors, Wagner may give reasoning to draft relievers in the first round. Wagner set the NCAA record for K/9, and showed why in the Majors. His vicious slider struck out 25 in 21.2 innings, and he allowed only 13 hits. He only allowed 2HR and 4ER in his entire stint in the Majors. If the Reds are smart enough to make him their closer, he'll become the 2nd best in the NL Central.

WaTNeY Rocky Biddle Award (most random closer to notch 30 saves)- Juan Rincon- Minnesota
I've said the Twins will lose both Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins, and I think J.C. Romero will stay in set-up duty. That means the Twins closing job will be either Rincon's or Jesse Crain's, although I doubt the team would pick a rookie. Plus, Rincon hasn't allowed a run in almost three weeks now. While I'm sure there will be a better pick next April, I'm going with Rincon.

WaTNeY 2004 Breakout Teams- Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres
The Orioles won my biggest organizational jump earlier, as there farm system tripled in size. But the more and more you look at this team, the more and more I like them. Many players on the team (Buddy Groom and Omar Daal) had off years, and others (Kurt Ainsworth and Eric DuBose) should have big 2004s. The team will land another big bat offensively, and become a force. Plus, the team should be ignited with their new manager, Eddie Murray, taking over.

San Diego I like even more. This team has this lineup:

Sean Burroughs- 3B- LH
Mark Loretta- 2B- RH
Brian Giles- LF- LH
Phil Nevin- RF- RH
Ryan Klesko- 1B- LH
Javy Lopez?- C- RH
Mark Kotsay- CF- LH
Khalil Greene- SS- RH

Wow, how nice would that be? Then, they would also have Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy, both mentioned in my breakout pitchers list. It looks like they might sign David Wells, and already have Brian Lawrence. This team looks sure-fire to win the NL West next season. Kudos Kevin Towers.

Wait 'Til Next Year Award for team with high hopes that fall apart- Los Angeles Dodgers
It's all falling down in LA. Next year will be ugly, as the team will be bridging the gap between the new (Edwin Jackson), and the old (Kevin Brown). While I hate to say it, there is a good chance Brown gets hurt next season. The team seems to be a time bomb, and don't have the money to fix the game's worst lineup. My advice would be to go with this lineup:

C- Koyie Hill
1B- Paul Lo Duca
2B- Jolbert Cabrera
SS- Kaz Matsui
3B- Adrian Beltre
LF- J.D. Drew
CF- Dave Roberts
RF- Shawn Green

Still, the team will have to wait for the James Loneys, Delwyn Youngs, and Franklyn Gutierrezzzzz. But, I'm afraid no matter how much this team spends they'll fall apart, and Dan Evans should be out of a job in one year.

That's all for today. If you have any more ideas for a potential WaTNeY, e-mail me!. And Congrats to the 2003 NL Central Champion Chicago Cubs! Here's to a World Series of Boston and ChiCubs!

26/09/2003

BIG DAY: Playoff teams in two months 

Hey everyone, I want to start off today thanking my readers, this has been a record-setting hits week. I hope I can keep putting out quality for you to read, and give you a different way to look at baseball.

After a subpar week, I decided to write a lot today. In 9 seperate posts below, I’ve written about the upcoming offseason for all nine playoff teams or contenders (not Phillies). Here are the links to these pieces, if you want to pick just one, or scroll down and read them all. I’ll be off on a vacation this weekend, ironic that my one chance comes on baseball’s big weekend. Without further adieu, here are the links:

New York Yankees
Oakland A's
Minnesota Twins
Boston Red Sox
Atlanta Braves
San Francisco Giants
Florida Marlins
Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros

Enjoy!!

New York Yankees 

New York will likely pick and choose more in this free agency, as there are few holes to fill. Right field is one however, and the team has its choice. Gary Sheffield has been the rumored player, as Vladimir Guerrero has stated a dislike of New York City. Sheffield would be a huge addition, giving the Yankees the kind of lineup that Boston has. That’s if Joe Torre realizes that Alfonso Soriano is NOT a leadoff hitter, and that Derek Jeter IS.

The lineup, other than RF, should be identical next season. Here’s what we’re looking at, if Joe Torre learns some lineupectomy:

1. Derek Jeter- SS- RH
2. Bernie Williams- CF- SH
3. Gary Sheffield- RF- RH
4. Jason Giambi- DH- LH
5. Alfonso Soriano- 2B- RH
6. Jorge Posada- C- SH
7. Nick Johnson- 1B- LH
8. Aaron Boone- 3B- RH
9. Hideki Matsui- LF- LH

I’m sure I will get an angry e-mail from a Yankees fan disputing that, but I’ll stick to my guns. Hopefully the team has learned their lessons and will build a bench in 2004. They only have to look within to see David Delucci (the perfect bench player), Fernando Seguignol (AAA MVP), and Juan Rivera. Although if Rivera is included in a trade to land a 5th starter, don’t be surprised. Erick Almonte is in that same boat, and the team has an infatuation with Enrique Wilson.

Steinbrenner’s rotation won’t have the big names it had in 2003, but it should be very effective. Mike Mussina returns, and seems to finally have mastered pitching for the Yankees. Jose Contreras will be handed a spot, and should compete for the Cy Young. The Cuban right-hander has gone 6-1, 2.34ERA in 9 starts. He’s allowed only 38 hits in 57.2 innings, while striking out 57 and walking 19. Yes, he’ll be on my 2004 fantasy team. Jon Lieber will return to the Majors next season, but the team shouldn’t expect anything more than fifth starter output. Lieber should be good for 200 innings, but will likely need a year to gain effectiveness. Roger Clemens, David Wells, and Andy Pettite are all free agents next season. Clemens will probably retire, and the team has no interest in retaining Wells. But Pettite has been a career Yankee, and will show his loyalty. The team will bring their southpaw back for big dollars in 2004, ensuring them a third starter. That leaves one spot open for a fourth starter.

With the Yankees money, finding a starting pitcher shouldn’t be difficult. Expect the team to have three options: Curt Schilling, Bartolo Colon, and Javier Vazquez. It would be nice if they signed Greg Maddux, but I think they’ll be smarter than that. Vazquez is included simply because the team will want to stop the Red Sox from signing him. See, the Red Sox have a similar list, although I question if they could get Schilling. I think he makes sense in only pinstripes or back as a Phillie next year, no other teams can afford him. But if New York gave the Diamondbacks Juan Rivera, Erick Almonte, Jeff Weaver, Danny Borrell, and a low-level prospect, he could probably be theirs. If Nick Johnson is a must, I would advise against the deal. Colon ain’t a bad back-up choice, either.

The bullpen doesn’t have too many problems, just a lot of free agents. Mariano Rivera will be back, and Steve Karsay will return from a year’s rest. Chris Hammond will make a second run in the Big Apple, and that’s all the signed players. Well, you could say Jeff Weaver, but I doubt the team has interest in bringing him back. Antonio Osuna and Gabe White have big options, and Osuna should be a lock. White’s awful expensive, and Felix Heredia has done well. Jeff Nelson will be considered, as he’s struck out 20 in 17 innings with the Yankees. What might be the most interesting, is if Steinbrenner spends the winter shopping for either a GM or manager.

Oakland A's 

Yet again, the A’s will be losing an MVP, and one of the game’s best closers. Miguel Tejada is out the door, leaving Oakland with basically no right-handed power. And Keith Foulke will be leaving as well, so Billy Beane will be going to his fifth closer in five years in 2004. But you can never truly rule out the A’s, who will have a healthy Mark Mulder in the rotation next year, along with a full season from Rich Harden.

From a batting standpoint, there’s not a lot to be done. Ramon Hernandez had a solid year, and neared 140 games for the season behind the plate. Beane had stated he originally wanted to platoon Hernandez with Mark Johnson, whom hasn’t played since April. The team has now ran into Adam Melhuse, whom helped clinch the division with a 10th inning off-the-bench home run.

The infield is pretty set, with not much needing to be done. The team stupidly locked up Scott Hatteberg for next season, and will likely choose between Graham Koonce and Dan Johnson in 2005. Second base is the only position that has some controversey, with Mark Ellis posting a .295OBP in the 2nd half. Esteban German has re-emerged, and will make a run at the position next season. The team may pursue a free agent, and a player like Tony Graffanino would fit Beane’s profile well. Top prospect Bobby Crosby will be inserted full-time at shortstop, and is a favorite for Rookie of the Year. And at third, expect a big season from Eric Chavez, whom has hit .313/.379/.551 in the second half. The team will lose contracts like Scott Hatteberg and Jermaine Dye next season, and they’ve talked about inking up Chavez long-term.

Is there something as too much depth? Yes, only when you’re on a big budget. That being said, expect the team to trade or non-tender Ted Lilly next season. Lilly is 7-2, 3.00 in the second half, and expect the “mastermind” Beane to use that to his advantage. After that, the team has a pretty easy decision. The Big Four are all locks, with Mulder’s hip as the only concern. The fifth spot will be Justin Duchscherer’s until Joe Blanton claims it.

Jermaine Dye and Chris Singleton were to be leaned on a lot this season, but together they’ve put up 112 hits, cumulatively less than the Cubs’ Alex Gonzalez. Singleton won’t be back in 2004, but Dye will, to the tune of $11 million. The team thought a superstar had landed in their lap when Eric Byrnes hit .356/.405/.625 in May, and .322/.395/.583 in June. But Byrnes has tailed off, only managing a .174 average in the second half. The team has turned to Billy McMillon, a AAA veteran known for taking walks, and Terence Long. Long has disappointed, not eclipsing the .240 mark. But McMillon hasn’t, and his splits vs. right-handers (.298/.392/.496), compared to Byrnes against lefties (.290/.340/.531) will make for a decent platoon. Jose Guillen was brought into be the big right-handed bat, and hasn’t disappointed. But he was mad the team didn’t immediately re-sign him, and might walk. If he does, the team may have to use Lilly for a left fielder, or sign a free agent. The team was previously interested in J.D. Drew, and those talks may re-ignite. And if the Sox will part with Carlos Lee, look out.

Beane must prove the ability to build a bullpen out of scraps more than any other time in 2004. Keith Foulke, one of the league’s best closers, will probably walk this season. But the team has some many stashed away, and don’t be too surprised if they go after him. If not, Lilly may be traded for one, or Beane will sign a free agent. The team also needs a set-up man, as inept Jim Mecir is gone. Ricardo Rincon will be back, as will Chad Bradford. Rule V pick Mike Neu will be in the bullpen next year, as will Chad Harville. The team will have to acquire a closer, set-up man, and swing-man, unless Mike Wood will fill the latter hole. Billy Beane will be tested in 2004, and must come up big to have the A's win, and to prove GMs don't hate him because of Moneyball.

Minnesota Twins 

Imagine this...the Twins were to be contracted two years ago. Wow. This team will have to make some big changes next year, and the lineup should be very different.

While Doug Mientkiewicz has had a huge season, the team can’t afford to bring him back next season. Justin Morneau is more than ready, and should be a big part of the offense next season. Luis Rivas’ successes in the two-hole will likely make the Twins bring him back next season, and he could turn into a 30SB threat. Christian Guzman will be retained, simply because the team has no other options. Prospect Jason Bartlett is coming on fast, but won’t be there until 2005. Corey Koskie has a $4.5M option for next season, and the team has no reason to buy out that contract. Expect him back, and healthy, next year.

Another player that will surely be back is Shannon Stewart. While Shannon is a free agent, the team must sign him, as he proved to be such a big acquisition. He will sit atop the lineup, and split time in left, right, and the DH spot. Splitting time with him will be Jacque Jones, who quietly had a nice season. While the power wasn’t in the 2002 form, he did hit .303. Torii Hunter had a disappointing season, and seems to be a “close-eyed swinging-hard” type player. The last spot (RF/DH), must be decided between Mike Cuddyer, Mike LeCroy, Mike Restovich, Lew Ford, and Mike Ryan. A.J. Pierzynski has one more year as a Twin, before the team ships him off somewhere to make room for Mauer.

The rotation will have a younger look next year, and a full season with their new ace. Johan Santana is 11-2, 2.99ERA as a starter, and is one of my favorites for the 2004 Cy Young. He is an amazing pitcher, and probably the best Rule V pick EVER. Brad Radke will look to build on his 9-1 second half with a big 2004. He probably will remain uneffective, but will eat his innings. Kyle Lohse has had a little disappointing of a season, and will be in the 2004 version. Eric Milton should also return full-time, giving the team at least two lefties. Grant Balfour could claim the last spot, although I feel he is better suited for middle relief. But if he holds it until J.D. Durbin claims it, no big deal. But I would advise the team to go after someone as a filler, a Cory Lidle or Ismael Valdes type.

The bullpen will be much different next year, as Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins are angry at Twin management. They both wanted re-extensions, and have threatened to leave. Guardado may be re-signed, but Hawkins is already gone. The team is comfortable with Juan Rincon, J.C. Romero, and prospect Jesse Crain all closing. The rest of the bullpen will include Michael Nakamura, Carlos Pulido, and possibly Brad Thomas. Balfour should be in there, and would help out a lot. This bullpen won’t have big names, but should be very effective. My advice to Terry Ryan: sign Shannon Stewart!!!

Boston Red Sox 

Theo Epstein will give it another go in 2003-2004, as he had a good first trial. There are some huge decisions to make, as the Yankees should be stacked next season.

David Ortiz is a free agent, and there is no way the team will let its newfound hero leave. Look for him to make hefty money, somewhere in the $4M per year range. Kevin Millar will be back next year, as will Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller. The question about Mueller is where? The team could go after a 2B (Re-sign Walker? Graffanino?), or move Mueller there and put Kevin Youkilis at third. But Youkilis is likely part of a deal for pitching, so expect the first option to happen. The oufield will not change, but I doubt Gabe Kapler will return.

There is pitching on this team, just not a lot of it. Pedro leads the rotation, and Derek Lowe will undoubteduly have his option picked up. Tim Wakefield also has a rotation spot locked up. The interesting story will be Jeff Suppan, who has struggled as a Red Sox, and has a $4M option next season. I advise the team to pick that up, because in the least he’ll match Jon Lieber in IP and effectiveness. Plus, it only leaves one hole in that rotation.

As I eluded earlier, I expect that spot to be filled by Javier Vazquez or Bartolo Colon. Vazquez won’t cost too much, somewhere in the range of Kevin Youkilis, Jorge De La Rosa, and Casey Fossum. Vazquez has had a monster second half, and would definitly be able to match Jose Contreras. If Boston lands him, I will likely include Javier in my list of most likely to win the 2004 Cy Young.

While people have made a lot out of bullpen problems, the team has some decent options. Byung-Hyun Kim will return, and he’s done a much better job in Boston than given credit for. Scott Williamson has struggled in a Boston uniform, but just needs an offseason to work out his troubles. As do Scott Sauerbeck and Ramiro Mendoza, who have had disappointing season. Alan Embree has been inconsistent, but the team can depend on him when they need it. Bronson Arroyo, the International Cy Young, will fill the long spot very well. That leaves room for one set-up man to replace Mike Timlin. Expect whoever it is to be a big name, one of the Armando Benitez variety. Theo Epsein is a genius, and I would put him ahead of Billy Beane for all those who want to know.

Atlanta Braves 

Every year I question the Braves’ ability to make the playoffs, and every year they prove me wrong. Therefore, I’m going to officially question the Braves’ ability to make the 2004 playoffs. John Scheurholtz is the game’s best GM, but has some hard times in front of him.

Surprisingly, the team’s strength in 2003 was its offense. But, of this top-notch offense, few players will be returning. Up the middle, Marcus Giles, Rafeal Furcal, and Andruw Jones will all return. As will Chipper Jones, whom has now become the Braves’ best hitter since Hank Aaron. But, the team will lose Gary Sheffield, Vinny Castilla, Rob Fick, and Javy Lopez, all whom had big 2003s. The team could go with prospects to fill 1B and C, they have Dave LaRoche and Johnny Estrada ready. Castilla should re-sign, or the team will go after Robin Ventura or Joe Randa. Javy Lopez may get re-signed, but he’ll likely be too expensive.

One interesting rumor floating around is Richie Sexson. This team is loaded in pitching prospects, and would probably have to pick one or two blue-chippers, along with Dave LaRoche to do the deal. He would replace Gary Sheffield in the lineup, and allow the team to go cheap in right.

Greg Maddux, the Braves’ best since Warren Spahn, won’t be wearing an Atlanta jersey in 2004. Right now, the rotation has Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton, Horacio Ramirez, and Paul Byrd locked up. They may look within, someone like Bubba Nelson or Adam Wainwright, or sign a cheap free-agent like Shane Reynolds.

What will be really interesting, is the bullpen. John Smoltz will be back in full force next year, but the team must put better arms before him. Kent Mercker and Will Cunnane have been sensational in Braves’ uniforms, probably giving the team reasons to not bring Roberto Hernandez and Ray King back. Jaret Wright, Trey Hodges, and Kevin Gryboski should compete for two spots, and Jung Bong and Andy Pratt for another. The team may pursue a big-name set-up man, although I feel that isn’t necessary. This is a team that will need the balls to bounce the right way, again, for them to win in 2004.

San Francisco Giants 

Despite the league’s best attendance, the Giants probably will not be able to add payroll next year, they may have to decrease it. That isn’t good news, especially when the club will have four open position spots, two rotation holes, and a couple of bullpen spots.

Barry Bonds is all a team needs to succeed. Add in an improved Edgardo Alfonzo and Ray Durham, plus Marquis Grissom should be enough. But, its important to note the team will probably lose J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia, and Benito Santiago to free agency. They also must decide on Jose Cruz Jr., whom has a $4M option for next season. My advice: let everyone go but Aurilia. Todd Linden and an extremely cheap free agent (think Ben Grieve), would be enough next year. At first, the team could go with a combination of Pedro Feliz (honestly, 30HR), and Lance Niekro. Behind the plate, the team has already started to groove Yorvit Torrealba for the role. But Aurilia is the key, and I think the team must sign him. No, platooning Neifi Perez and Cody Ransom doesn’t make up for Rich.

With all that money being saved in the hitting department, the team should focus it on pitching. Jason Schmidt, Kirk Rueter, and Jerome Williams are all guaranteed rotation spots next year. The final fifth slot could go to a mix of Kevin Correia, a veteran like Dustin Hermanson, and Boof Bonser. This gives the team lots of money to be in the races for Kevin Millwood, Sidney Ponson, and even Greg Maddux. Those are the three the Giants could go after.

Robb Nen is gone for a year, and the team discovers Tim Worrell. Only to lose him? Maybe. It’s likely the G-Men will be forced to decide between Worrell and Felix Rodriguez. Peter Gammons hints the team would pick Worrell, and put him in middle relief. Joe Nathan is ready for a set-up role, and in 2005, the closer spot. The team is well-equipped from the left side, they can choose between Jason Christenson, Chad Zerbe, Scott Eyre, and Noah Lowry. They will likely re-sign Matt Herges, who would come cheap and did a good job for them. And finally, expect Jim Brower to be back in some capacity, he’s been good since the break. Until Barry Bonds retires, the Giants have chances. But, the Padres will likely be the favorites next year.

Florida Marlins 

What a crazy year it’s been for the Marlins. Every up and down a team can go through, they have. The team has many off-season decisions to make, including re-signing the likes of Pudge and Luis Castillo.

Before I explain how they got there, here’s my 2004 Marlins lineup card:

C- Ivan Rodriguez
1B- Jeff Conine
2B- Luis Castillo
SS- Alex Gonzalez
3B- Mike Lowell
LF- Miguel Cabrera
CF- Juan Pierre
RF- Jong-Soo Shim

Wow. I think the team should go to lengths to re-sign Pudge and Castillo, both have expressed interest in returning. Conine is a long-time Marlin, and the team should trade Derrek Lee to get money. Mike Lowell has to be considered for a long-term contract, they should make him a career Marlin. Cabrera will have a huge 2004, this is a player who’s hit .267/.320/.475 as a 20-YEAR-OLD!!!! And finally, the team should non-tender or trade Juan Encarnacion to free up some money. To play right, they should bring in Shim, a Korean player they had in Spring Training last year, and probably the Korean Leagues’ second most valuable player. This team would be very good offensively and defensively, with no real holes.

When A.J. Burnett went down, the season was over. Right? Wrong. The Marlins found great pitching in unpredictable places, and now have some of the best pitchers in the league. Josh Beckett has a 2.55ERA since the All-Star Break, with hit rates below 9 (75H in 88.1IP) and K-rates above it (93K). He will be on the top five list for the Cy Young, next year. While Dontrelle Willis has faded down the stretch, it has been a fantastic run for a 21-year-old, and he should do nothing but improve next season. While Mark Redman looked like a solid addition last winter, not many people thought he’d eclipse 150Ks. He’s become a very good left-handed pitcher, capable of eating innings, and really uses Pro Player Stadium. Finally, I’m a big believer in Carl Pavano. I think he’s been slowly building back ever since his arm injuries, and he’s about to have a big season. He’s a solid fourth starter, and he’s yet to reach his ceiling.

Whom I didn’t include was Brad Penny. With Burnett coming back, there isn’t room for Penny on this team. Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, and Brad Penny are big names to throw away, but the team must do it. Burnett may need some time to gain effectiveness, so the team has Michael Tejera. In time, Burnett will become the ace he is, and the Marlins will deal him for good players.

Tim Spooneybarger missed most of this season, and he is big in the plans for 2004. The team should plan on non-tendering Braden Looper, to give them sufficient money to re-sign Ugueth Urbina. Ugueth has been huge for the Marlins, and seems to love Florida. He’s a great guy to have in the clubhouse, and should be high on the Marlins wish list. Chad Fox has done a good job here as well, and should also figure into the plans. Spooneybarger will set-up, and Fox will have say in that as well. Armando Almanza will take the leftie duties, and Nate Bump will be in there as well. There are a lot of arms in this organization, so I wouldn’t get caught up in middle relief.

There’s a lot of things Larry Beinfest needs to do to become a great general manager, but it’s all in front of him. Miami will be packing the seats next year, its Beinfest’s job to keep them there.

Chicago Cubs 

Jim Hendry did everything and anything he could to the Cubs this year, but in reality, 2004 is their year. In the last 95 years, there hasn’t been as good of a time as now for the Cubs to make a run. Hendry doesn’t have much to do, but there is unfinished business.

First, Sammy Sosa will be back. You might here that he is “testing the waters” or stuff like that, but he ain’t moving. Corey Patterson will be back next season, although Kenny Lofton did a great job filling in. Aramis Ramirez is a great candidate to have a breakout 2004, he’s hit 15 homers in only 219 at-bats with the Cubs. Forty to fifty home runs from Aramis’ bat is quite possible. Randall Simon will likely be retained, as Dusty doesn’t want to bring Hee Seop Choi out there every fifth day. While I doubt it will happen, the Cubs could send Choi and Cruz to the Expos for Vazquez.

What should happen is Miguel Tejada. Alex Gonzalez isn’t getting it done at shortstop, and the team could probably throw him into some deal. Tejada would be a big right-handed bat, and give Sammy Sosa protection he’s never had. Second base is a hole, and the team should probably re-sign Mark Grudzilanek. Picking up his option is stupid, but he’s done great in a Cubs’ uniform and probably should return. Although, that would make him the de facto leadoff man. The team will look into signing Fernando Vina instead, since he has leadoff experience.

The rotation is pretty set. Mark Prior will be the ace, and like I said yesterday, flirt with an ERA under 2.00. Kerry Wood will have another big season, now that he’s firing that slider for strikes. Carlos Zambrano will further his development, and put up ace numbers. Matt Clement should revert back to 2002 form, since he’ll have time to get over all his little injuries. Juan Cruz is quite capable in the fifth slot, and is simply holding on until Angel Guzman is ready.

The bullpen needs some work. Joe Borowski is more of a middle relief/set-up type, and the team should get a closer. Eddie Guardado would give the Cubs the option of a platoon closer, bringing in Guardado vs. lefties, and Borowski to face right-handers. Or, look for the team to look to re-sign Rod Beck. He loves Dusty Baker, and loves Chicago. He’d get to fight for the closer spot, although he may be bitter about not making the team out of Spring Training. The only other possibilities are Ugueth Urbina and Tom Gordon. Look for the team to sign another right-hander, someone of the Jason Grimsley variety as well. With a little help, this team could breeze through the NL Central, and possibly end the near-100-year-losing streak.

Houston Astros 

Prediction: This is the beginning of the end for the Astros. It’s all downhill from here. The money isn’t there, and the team is getting old. Gerry Hunsicker will have to do a lot of things right for this team to succeed next year and beyond.

Offensively, there’s not a lot to do. Brad Ausmus is a free agent, and although he’s well liked on the team, prospect John Buck can do everything Brad can. Other than that, the team should focus on giving Morgan Ensberg the 3rd base job, and trading Richard Hidalgo. The team desperately needs to free up money, and trading Hidalgo is a good idea. He could go to the Braves, who will need a bat to make up for the loss of Sheffield. The team could then slide Jason Lane into that spot, without losing too much value.

From a starting pitching standpoint, things have to get better. Roy Oswalt badly needs groin surgery, and after he does that this offseason, should be healthy in 2004. Wade Miller has been up and down, and probably needs the winter break to regain arm strength. Tim Redding is starting to develop blisters, which the team really doesn’t want to start developing. Finally, Jeriome Robertson had a solid rookie year, and must build on that. Ron Villone probably won’t be brought back next season, as the team should be looking for better arms. With Hidalgo’s money gone, Hunsicker should investigate signing Sidney Ponson, whom he’s long coveted for.

The bullpen doesn’t need help. Wagner closing, Dotel and Lidge setting up. Ricky Stone and Kirk Saarlos should handle the middle relief duties. The team could use a LOOGY, and Mike Myers will probably be available. If Myers were to return to dominance in an Astro uniform, they’d start making arguments for the best bullpen ever.

I think this team is treading water, and will slowly start to sink. The Cubs are catching up, and soon it will be the Astros that are chasing.

25/09/2003

Run-ons and what-nots 

Just my luck. I don't think I've ever been as busy in my life as I have the last two days. And of course, the majority of my work comes during the days' most important games. But yes, I did witness Shawn Estes do the unthinkable yesterday. And by that, I mean ink himself a contract somewhere next season. I think he may actually have the potential to do well in a giant park, something like Dodger Stadium or Shea.

Here's some thoughts I've been having...

- Someone asked me a couple of days ago about who I thought would/should get fired this offseason. These are the managers that likely won't be back next season:

1. Mike Hargrove- Orioles
2. Jerry Manuel- White Sox
3. Larry Bowa- Phillies
4. Dave Miley- Reds' interim manager
5. Jim Tracy- Dodgers

That's it. Hargrove is a good manager, but benefitted from a good team in Cleveland. He may be a good fit in Philadelphia, with ex-pals Jim Thome and Joe Kerrigan. Jim Tracy is a fantastic manager, but the Dodgers must put the blame on someone. The Reds should go after him, but that's doubtful. Manuel is terrible, and will be playing the role of bench coach next year, probably with the Alou's Giants. Bowa is hated by all players, and shouldn't be back ever again. So naturally, he'll interview for the White Sox job.

Expect Willie Randolph to land his first gig, and Terry Franchone will be back. It also sounds like Eddie Murray has the Baltimore job. I will officially laugh if Joe Torre or Grady Little get fired...they shouldn't. And I pray that Tony La Russa quits.

- I hope Major League Baseball replaces Omar Minaya as GM of the Expos with Sandy Alderson. Imagine what Alderson, who taught the overrated Billy Beane everything he knows, build the failing Expos. He'd deal Javier Vazquez to the Red Sox quickly, just so he could get Kevin Youkilis to play third. Kelly Shoppach would also need to be included in that kind of a deal.

- The U.S. Olympic team was named, with some interesting guys on there. The all-prospect lineup would be:

C- Joe Mauer
1B- No Prospect (Graham Koonce)
2B- Chris Burke
SS- J.J. Hardy
3B- Garrett Atkins
OF- Jeremy Reed
OF- Grady Sizemore
OF- Terrmel Sledge

SP- Cole Hamels
SP- John VanBenschoten
SP- Adam Wainwright
SP- J.D. Durbin

CL- Jesse Crain

Not a bad team. Except my memories of baseball in the Olympics was me overhyping Ben Sheets and Kris Benson to people because of their excellent performances.

- Jose Contreras will be mentioned in Cy Young debates next year, and Johan Santana might win it. In the NL, Mark Prior will flirt with an ERA under 2.00, while Josh Beckett gets a top-five vote.

- Is .250/.280/.500 from your 1B OK when you have Barry Bonds in left? The Giants may put Pedro Feliz out at first next year, they need to put their money in other places. Feliz could hit 30HR easily next season, but would doubtfully hit the .300OBP marker. Then again, don't be surprised if Rafeal Palmiero ends here.

- Follow-up from yesterday's column...reader Jody Maulton informed me that the rule is 50IP for pitchers and 130AB for hitters when they lose rookie eligibility. That means Rafeal Soriano lost his eligibility Tuesday, and Cliff Lee of Cleveland will lose his Friday.

- This site never talks about the current season, but I'm throwing in my views now. Here, quickly, are my awards and predictions:

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP: Albert Pujols- Sorry Barry...not this year.
AL CY: Roy Halladay- Although Aaron Gleeman almost convinced me otherwise
NL CY: Eric Gagne- The perfect season
AL ROY: Angel Berroa- shouldn't be questioned
NL ROY: Brandon Webb- read above statement
AL MOY: Tony Pena- Different Style of coaching
NL MOY: Jack McKeon- Trader Jack!

AL Pennant Winner: Boston Red Sox
NL Pennant Winner: Chicago Cubs

World Series Victor: Boston Red Sox

And yes, I really believe what I just wrote.

Back with a real column tomorrow. I'm currently looking at the past couple AFLs to see if it dictates future performance at all. I miss minor league baseball already!

24/09/2003

2004 Rookie Contestants 

As the days before the infamous WaTNeYs make their premier, I must start thinking about the 2004 Rookies of the Year. So in doing so, here’s a look at players that should qualify next season for the AL:

I’m not exactly sure where the rookie cutoff is...if you know it, e-mail me....

New York Yankees- No one, are you kidding me?
Boston Red Sox
Kevin Youkilis- .327/.487/.465 in 312 AA at-bats
Jorge De La Rosa- 6-3 2.80 87H/99.2IP 102K/36BB at AA
Toronto Blue Jays
Kevin Cash- .270/.331/.442 in 326 AAA at-bats
Jason Arnold- 4-8 4.33 121H/120.1IP 82K/46BB at AAA
Gabe Gross- .319/.423/.481 in 310 AA at-bats
Baltimore Orioles
Matt Riley- 4-2 3.58 70H/70.1IP 77K/28BB at AAA
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Chad Gaudin- 1-0 4.04 33H/35.2IP 20K/15BB in ML

Not an All-Star division. Youkilis was terrible in AAA, and will probably not get the job. De La Rosa will have a hard time as well, expect them both to get dealt. Kevin Cash is a great defensive catcher, so even decent offensive numbers will help his case. Arnold got worse as the year went on, so I don’t like his chances. I’m a big Gabe Gross fan, I just don’t see where he fits in on the Blue Jays. Matt Riley, a southpaw, probably is the choice from this division. He was a top pitching prospect a few years ago, and finally broke back on the scene. Gaudin may or may not be a rookie, but if so, has already proved himself in the big leagues.

To the Central: (Cliff Lee, Jimmy Gobble, not candidates?)

Minnesota Twins
Jesse Crain- 3-1 3.12 24H/26IP 33K/10BB at AAA
Lew Ford- .303/.357/.450 in 211 AAA at-bats
Chicago White Sox
Neal Cotts- 9-7 2.16 67H/108.1IP 133K/56BB at AA
Jeremy Reed- .409/.474/.591 in 242 AA at-bats
Aaron Miles- .304/.351/.445 in 546 AAA at-bats
Kansas City Royals
David DeJesus- .298/.412/.470 in 215 AAA at-bats
Cleveland Indians
Alex Escobar- .251/.296/.472 in 439 AAA at-bats
Kazuhito Tadano- 4-1 1.24 62H/72.2IP 78K/15BB in AA
Francisco Cruceta- 13-9 3.09 141H/163.IP 134K/66BB in AA
Detroit Tigers
Cody Ross- .287/.333/.515 in 470 AAA at-bats

Crain may get the closer role, with Guardado and Hawkins likely out the door. Ford will probably not get a job until he’s traded, simply too much of a logjam. Cotts proved he’s not quite ready for the Majors, and the Sox have big decisions to make for the future of Reed and Miles. DeJesus is a solid bat, as he will be leading off for the Royals next season. Escobar has made significant improvements since hitting the Major League club, and may hit 30 home runs next season. Tadano will likely have a Hasegawa-like role next season, prohibiting him from the award. If Cruceta gets a rotation slot, he’s a good bet, but the Indians can wait on Francisco and Jeremy Guthrie. Cody Ross has no real redeeming quality, and doesn’t have the skills for this award.

Westward bound...

Oakland A’s
Joe Blanton- 3-1 1.26 21H/35.2IP 30K/7BB at AA
Bobby Crosby- .308/.395/.544 in 465 AAA at-bats
Justin Duchscherer- 14-2 3.25 151/155 117/18
Seattle Mariners (no Rafeal Soriano right?)
Rett Johnson- 5-2 2.15 63H/71IP 49K/18BB at AAA
Travis Blackley- 17-3 2.61 125/162.1 144/62 at AA
Anaheim Angels- no one until Mathis, Jenks, Santana, Kotchman, McPherson arrive
Texas Rangers
Ramon Nivar- .347/.387/.464 in 317 AA at-bats
Jose Dominguez- 5-0 2.60 35/55.1 54/21 at AA

Crosby is the front-runner, as the A’s are handing him Miguel Tejada’s job next season. Duchscherer will start the year in the five-slot, and Blanton should finsih in that role. Rett Johnson or Travis Blackley will get a spot in Seattle, and whomever does will compete. The Angels have to wait until their big five is ready, but they should sweep the 2005 awards. Nivar is a solid player who has no real position, and Dominguez isn’t quite ready.

Check back next Tuesday for the WaTNeYs, and my 2004 ROY pix...


22/09/2003

17 straight in 2004...but where? 

Greg Maddux eclipsed a sensational record this week, winning 15 games for the 16th straight season. While I tend to agree with Rob Neyer that the record is a bit overhyped, Maddux is one of the two great pitchers of this generation. The other one, Roger Clemens, will likely be hanging his spikes up for the final time at seasons end. Maddux will enter the free agent market blind for the first time in his life, and actually with lack of desiring competitors.

The Braves know that the only way to keep their aging superstar is to offer him arbitration, where he would make in excess of $10M, a figure he wouldn’t come close to approaching on the free agent market. So instead, the team will likely opt to decline him arbitration, meaning they can’t negotiate with their best pitcher since Spahn until May 1. That means Greg Maddux has 29 teams to pick from, except not all will be vying for his services.

Why not? Here’s the two numbers I would point out:

H/9
2001: 8.49
2002: 8.76
2003: 9.32

OPS against (courtesy of ESPN)
2000: .612
2001: .644
2002: .654
2003: .720

These numbers pieced with the fact that Maddux’s ERA is the highest it has been since 1987 is frightening. Two weeks into next season Greg will reach the tender age of 38, and be more of an injury concern than ever. Randy Johnson’s 2003 is testament to the fact that good things are always ended by old age.

Another disturbing fact is that Maddux’s IP/GS was down to 6.1 this season. That figure is significantly lower than 6.95, his career mark. Basically, Maddux goes 6 innings on average, compared to seven during his prime.

But, here’s a look at Maddux’s 2003 half-season splits:

2003 Pre-AS: 7-8 4.63 135/126.1 76/22
2003 Post-AS: 8-3 3.00 86/87 46/11

Greg has improved as this season went on, which shows a little hope. There’s gas left in this tank, and there’s no better assistant pitching coach than Maddux. While I believe Leo Mazzone has a good argument for the Hall, not enough of his success is attributed to Maddux. He’s helped establish many careers, and is a great acquisition as a player/coach.

So whom could be interested? Here’s the following teams that will call Maddux’s agent:

1) San Diego Padres
2) Arizona Diamondbacks
3) Boston Red Sox
4) Chicago Cubs
5) Texas Rangers
6) Chicago White Sox
7) Anaheim Angels
8) San Francisco Giants

Now, let’s see whom we can eliminate. Peter Gammons reports the Padres will not pursue Maddux, although I believe it would make sense. The Diamondbacks are in huge money problems, and although Greg would like to return home that doesn’t seem plausible. Boston will have their priorities in acquiring Vazquez, Schilling, or Colon, with Maddux as a backup. The Cubs will also have priorities in other places, and likely have their rotation filled. But it would be nice to bring him home. Chicago’s other team will have that in mind, but should also pursue Colon and Sidney Ponson first. Anaheim wants Miguel Tejada, and will throw millions his way. The Giants make sense, as Maddux would fit in nicely beside Jason Schmidt. But do they have the dough to bring Maddux in?

My final list:

1. Padres
2. Rangers
3. Giants
4. Cubs

I don’t really believe Gammons that the team is more apt to sign Sterling Hitchcock than Maddux, and I think they’ll pursue him. Texas needs a mentor, and having an ace like Maddux would give them 2004 hope. San Francisco needs rotation arms, and has no problem getting older. And I also threw in the Cubs, because who else will they go after?

B.A.S....Baseball After Selig 

Prayers have been answered. Baseball fans have been saved. The new commissioner countdown has begun.

Bud Selig’s tenure atop Major League Baseball has been anything but successful, with the 1994 strike leading the way. While the game itself has brought fans back (with the ’97 Great Home Run Race and the 2001 World Series), Bud was the one to first deter them. It us essential for changes to be made, so the Nation’s Pastime stops its backward trend and turns bullish.

While I acknowledge the commissioner’s job is the hardest in baseball (my resume won’t be sent in), there are obvious blemishes in the game. The largest is the economic system, which lags behind that of the NFL and NBA. Restraints on owners must be in place, so that teams both stay in competition and minimize losses.

Another poster child for Selig’s ugly career is the current state of Los Expos. I’ve stayed away in the past from writing on this, but have deep feelings on the subject. Moving unsuccessful teams to new locations isn’t a bad idea, but split schedules are horrendous.

Finally, nothing demands more change than the draft. Baseball America and Mark Prior have popularized the amateur draft to its highest interest level yet. But baseball’s lack of self-promotion (and a formidable marketing department) has delayed its emergence upon your TV screen.

CHANGING THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM

$150 million. That immense number is the rough estimate of the difference in payroll between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. While the Rays are making significant strides, its virtually impossible for a $20 million payroll to reach one of $170M. The Commissioner’s office must amend this problem, as nothing would help promote the game more than 30 competitive teams.

I tend to understand the hesitance to create a hard salary cap, there are more ways than luxury tax to help competitive balance. In my mind, there is nothing that would help more than a minimum payroll. While restricting the Yankees to one day have a $200M payroll will be difficult, telling Devil Rays’ ownership to add $20M or be sold isn’t. Here’s the numbers that should be made if it were done today:

2005: $50M
2006: $55M
2007: $60M

In other words, give teams one year to create an economic plan, then make them spend. Giving the Devil Rays $20M to go after players like Mike Cameron and Matt Clement would not only help competitive balance, but likely increase Tampa Bay attendance. These are obvious rough estimates, but wouldn’t be difficult. Then, as the average payroll increases, as would the minimum.

What happens if owners fail to comply? The first time the team should get a warning, a slap on the wrist. The second time the ownership is fined, and Baseball looks into selling the team. The third year the team is sold with profits going to Major League Baseball, and not the former owners. Harsh, but necessary.

LOS EXPOS AND REALIGNMENT

News Item: The Players Association has rejected Major League Baseball’s ploy for another split schedule during the 2004 season.

For a team to properly compete, basic things must be given to them. Among those include September call-ups and 81 home games. These rights were taken away from the 2003 Expos, and likely cost them a playoff berth. That fact is disgraceful to baseball, and precautions must be made so that never happens again.

In doing so, the Expos should be moved to the right home, as should other failing teams. Here’s what I would do, in order:

1. Move the Expos to Washington D.C. There have been groups in D.C. investigating bringing a team to the nation’s capital for years. Its one of the country’s largest cities, and one of its most important. The team could play in RFK during 2004 and 2005, and a new stadium could likely be completed by 2006. Peter Angelos shouldn’t scare Major League Baseball away, he’s just a greedy owner looking for another dollar.

2. Move Tampa Bay to Mexico City. When talks of contraction were happening, the Devil Rays were eliminated because of an ugly 30-year lease. While this problem would likely stand in the way of relocation, 2 teams can’t survive in Florida. Yes, the Florida Marlins can, but not a team in Tampa. The commissioner’s office should look into the richest people in Mexico, and hope to put a team in the largest city in North America. After a trip to Mexico, I have never doubted a team could sell 30,000 tickets per game (at least).

3. Realign. This notion seems to scare Major League Baseball, but it shouldn’t. The NFL’s successful transition to 8 divisions is proof that it works. I think it’s important that every division has five teams. Here’s how the affected divisions work out (changes capitalized):

AL EAST: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, SENATORS
AL WEST: Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Angels, MEXICO CITY
NL EAST: Braves, Phillies, Marlins, Mets, PIRATES
NL CENTRAL: Astros, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Brewers

The present-day Expos would have to become an American League team, but I don’t think that’s a problem. Mexico City is only 929 miles from Arlington, which is shorter than the distance between New York and Tampa (1025 miles). The realignment would allow the Pirates and Phillies to start a Pennsylvania rivalry, and would give NL Central rivals (Cubs and Cardinals) more games against each other.

4. Future Expansion- If baseball was to start succeeding again, there are four places I would expand to. I don’t see this happening any time in the future, but it is something baseball should always have off-hand. Here’s my top 4:

1- Las Vegas (Pete Rose as owner?)
2- Portland
3- San Juan
4- New Jersey (3rd NY team=East Coast Bias)

And that, my friends, is how baseball realigns and relocates itself for success. I can guarantee ownership groups could be had in the matter of hours for both D.C. and M.C.

JUNE AMATEUR DRAFT

I may see this as more of a flaw than other people, but I despise the way baseball runs its draft. There are three things that must change: who sees it, who gets drafted, and who does the drafting.

First, baseball must televise this event. Baseball America’s website had a busy server in June, due to excessive visitors. The Baseball Primer discussion list was the largest I had ever seen. There is legit interest in this event, and ESPN (or at least ESPN 2) is better off showing this than the World Billiards Championships. Its insane to believe that people would watch every round, but to show the first five would be smart. It’s probably wrong to start glorifying high schoolers, but the NBA already does it, and it would probably help interest in college baseball as well.

Next, if the event was to be televised, it would also need to be dramatized. The drama of draft-day trades in both the NFL and NBA keeps me glued to my TV screen every year. One could argue that those two leagues can see the results of these trades immediately, as football draft picks play right away. But while baseball’s picks don’t play right away, it would likely increase interest in minor league baseball, as people would want to see how their last trade acquisition is performing in the Southern League.

Is there anything that perplexes you more than international signings? I mean, was it big news to any of you when Sammy Sosa signed with the Rangers, or when the Expos inked Vlad? It wasn’t to me. But what would happen if Sosa had been the first pick in the Major League draft? I’ll answer that: then you would have known about Guerrero and Sammy long before they hit the minors. For this reason, a worldwide draft should happen. My belief is that the Japanese professional players should be the only ones not included. That means the Yankees could still sign the next Hideki Matsui, but the next Jose Contreras would have to be drafted.

In conclusion, there aren’t many things I look forward to more than B.A.S. Let’s hope the next commissioner realizes the most basic fact in this business: the fans come first. There will always be bickering between rich players and richer owners, but its us fans that pay their bills.

19/09/2003

NOTE DAY!! 

Good morning everyone, today I will sound off on useless thoughts that have been circulating in my head. Good luck with the interpretation...

- To me, the Padres are the team to beat next season in the NL. This team will have a huge middle of the order, with Giles-Klesko-Nevin. Mark Kotsay should have a huge 2004, and Khalil Greene belongs in Rookie of the Year talk. Rumors will be wild on an Xavier Nady for Jason Kendall switch, and if that doesn't happen, the team will snag Benito Santiago.

And the pitching is also impressive. Rumors are swirling that Maddux will land in San Diego, giving the team a boost in every facet of pitching. And, two of my breakout pitchers for next year will definitly be Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy. The reasoning behind Eaton is the extreme success he's had a year away from surgery. For people like Roy Halladay and Kerry Wood, it took one recovery year to re-adjust to pitching. Eaton's hit rate is down, and he is still striking out. The same holds true for Peavy, who will be seeing his third year in the bigs at 23 next season. Along with Brian Lawrence and Ben Howard, this team is poised for a run.

- Joining them in the playoffs should be the Cubbies. Next year the Cubs should be sensational, especially if they take my advice and sign Tejada. He would give them a huge bat, and allow Randall Simon to be non-tendered. Juan Cruz is another pitcher who you should buy next year, and Corey Patterson will be back full-time. Watch out!

- Two random pitchers you probably didn't see having huge second halfs: Kip Wells and Javier Vazquez. There's an increasing likelihood that Vazquez will be wearing a Red Sox uniform next season, and he should have a Pedro-like effect. He has one of the better H/9 numbers in the game during this second half, and has a K/9 of nearly nine. Wells has had similar success, although he just can't get a win in Pittsburgh. But he and Wade Miller have both favored the second half, a note you may want to keep for Fantasy Baseball 2004.

- People in Montreal have been quite happy to hear the team is speaking with Vladimir Guerrero's agent. Hogwash. Major League Baseball is simply doing this so that when Guerrero locks up in Baltimore they can shrug and say, "We've tried." The leagues inability to find an owner for this team may have been the single most disgracing thing in Selig's tenure. On Monday, I'll be writing about where MLB should be in 2008 (after Bud), and you better believe Expo relocation is included.

- Interesting free agent news. The Arizona Diamondbacks are hoping to lower payroll $14M for 2004, which shouldn't be bad because of Matt Williams' retirement. But what was shocking to me was the fact that they are shooting for $55M in 2005. That surely means that Curt Schilling won't get another contract extension. One likely place for him will be...

The Texas Rangers have also indicated they'd like to drop their team payroll by about $20M next season. Rafeal Palmiero and Juan Gonzalez will take big chunks out of the payroll, although the team has said they'll try to bring back Palmiero. The lineup will be a good one, something along the lines of:

Michael Young- 2B
Laynce Nix- LF
Alex Rodriguez- SS
Hank Blalock- 3B
Mark Teixeira- 1B
Rafeal Palmiero- DH
Kevin Mench- RF
Ramon Nivar- CF
Einar Diaz/Gerald Laird- C

Not bad at all. The team should be reinvesting in pitching, but instead are waiting for Dominguez and Travis Hughes to establish themselves. The Rangers will win a division during A-Rod's contract.

- Lou Pinella is sounding off on his desires for the offseason. The Devil Rays want to add a power bat, and some relief pitching. Expect Tony Batista, Mike Cameron, and Carl Everett to all get calls. And Pinella will also want to add either Tom Gordon or Arthur Rhodes to his bullpen. Some interesting times ahead in Tampa.

- I'd also like to announce the first business day after the regular season ends, I'll be running the first annual WaTNeY awards. Categories will include Most Likely Hitter to Breakout in 2004, and best 2003-2004 free agent signee. Its something to look forward to. Oh yeah, and after that I'll be doing team-by-team organizational reports (two a day during the playoffs), and after the playoffs documenting what each team needs to do in the offseason. Oh yes, exciting times ahead on Wait 'Til Next Year.

I'll be catching the Chili Peppers tonight, so no baseball watching for me. Have a good weekend, and let's go Cubs!

18/09/2003

Central's fate...in 2004 

After a day when the Twins won the division and the Cubs gained ground on the Astros, I decided it was time to analyze the Central. But on this site, I won't give you my 2003 predictions (Twins and Cubs obviously), but rather a look into next year. Six teams...

Minnesota Twins

There are three free agents I want to mention in conjunction with the Twins: closer Eddie Guardado, set-up man LaTroy Hawkins, and outfielder Shannon Stewart.

The latter has been the poster child for the resurgent Twins, as he's hit .331/.390/.483 in Minnesota. But the more important number is 37, the win total the team has since his arrival (against only 20 losses). Stewart has been a catalyst atop the lineup, and has missed only one game since the July 16 trade.

Yesterday on ESPN, Doug Mientkiewicz mentioned the team thought Stewart should be considered for the MVP! Granted, some wild names are being thrown out in the AL race, but I think it speaks volumes for what the team thinks of Stewart. And with his hitting leadoff, Christian Guzman can drop down in the lineup. The team will likely make re-signing Stewart its top priority, and tell Jacque Jones to start learning right.

Minnesota bullpen ARP leaders (from Baseball Prospectus):

LaTroy Hawkins: 18.7
Eddie Guardado: 9.8
Juan Rincon: 8.0
Johan Santana: 7.6

As you can see, Hawkins and Guardado have been the two key elements of the Minnesota bullpen. But both sounded off earlier in the season about not being re-signed, and thus dropped in the favor of Terry Ryan. While J.C. Romero is having a disappointing season, he and Rincon could make for a solid finishing combo. And throw in the #1 relief prospect in all of baseball, Jesse Crain. A look at Crain's numbers:

High-A: 2-1 2.84 10H/19IP 25K/5BB
AA: 1-1 9Sv 0.69 13H/39IP 56K/10BB
AAA: 3-1 10Sv 3.12 24H/26IP 33K/10BB

Overall, he saved 19 games, and allowed only 47 hits in 84 innings. During that span, he struck out 114 people, walking only 25. Crain is ready for the Majors, and should be able to close games as well. The team has used Grant Balfour out of the bullpen, and he'll likely be a middle reliever next season. Rounding out the bullpen will be a mixture of people from Carlos Pulido to Mike Nakamura to Mike Fetters.

Another area of worry is the starting rotation. The team holds an expensive option on Rick Reed, one that they will surely decline. Kenny Rogers is also a free agent at season end, and will doubtfully be pursued. Joe Mays recently went under the knife, although Eric Milton has returned. So, the team has four starters locked next year: Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Eric Milton, and Kyle Lohse. Look for the team to add another pitcher via free agency, like a Jeff D'Amico, or through a trade.

What may change the most next season is the infield. Justin Morneau will be ready to play 1B everyday next year, meaning Doug Mientkiewicz will be non-tendered. There have been rumors that Luis Rivas will suffer the same fate, although thats doubtful. Corey Koskie has a team option for next season, and the team will probably pick it up. But they could opt for trying Cuddyer everyday, and to look for a 2B, and give Rivas the boot. Behind the dish, A.J. Pierzynski has one more year before super-prospect Joe Mauer strips his starting spot from him.

My 2004 Twins lineup:

1. Shannon Stewart- LF
2. Luis Rivas- 2B
3. Jacque Jones- DH/RF
4. Corey Koskie- 3B
5. Torii Hunter- CF
6. Justin Morneau- 1B
7. LeCroy/Restovich/Ford- RF/DH
8. A.J. Pierzynski- C
9. Christian Guzman- SS

White Sox

Ken Williams did all he could to put a winning team on the field this season, yet it still failed. Jerry Manuel won't be coaching Chicago next season, and I have my bets on Francone or Willie Randolph. This team has talent, but this may have been their best chance.

Reports say the team is close to signing Roberto Alomar to a two-year extension. This would be a mistake, as signing Adam Kennedy and platooning him with Tony Graffanino or Aaron Miles would be a better idea. Jose Valentin will be back next season, as will Graff, one of Williams' favorites. And since Alomar is being retained, chances are Sandy Alomar will return for a final hurrah.

After that, we know Magglio and Frank will be back...little else. There's speculation that Everett won't be brought back, and that either Lee or Konerko will be dealt. I don't think its a bad idea to trade Konerko, but Carlos is one of the prized jewels of this team. Plus...I have his jersey. The team may also bring back Everett, and try to keep a very similar team offensively.

But what must change, is the pithcing. Loaiza, Buerhle, and Garland are all guaranteed jobs next year. I worry that Colon will opt to leave Chicago, choosing the likes of Boston instead. But Williams will get a starter, and he has long been enfatuated with Sidney Ponson. The fifth spot will be a battle between Scott Scheonweis, Josh Stewart, Dan Wright, and anyone the club may bring in (Lidle?).

With all these signings, its the bullpen that will suffer. Billy Koch needs to bounce back next season, and Damaso Marte must continue his success. Kelly Wunsch will maintain his great LOOGY skills next year as well. After a good 16 innings in relief, Dan Wright may be back there next season. I've long said his knuckle-curve is suited for relief, where it would give hitters a different look.

So, what do you trade Konerko for? Prospects. This team could compete next year, but also must be thinking about the future. Bringing back Brian Daubach, and finding a platoon mate for the DH role isn't a bad idea. Then, get a solid pitcher for Konerko, who will replace Buerhle after he leaves in 2004.

Houston

There's just no more money left for Drayton McLane. The number one goal is keeping the team it has now, while putting more talented youngsters around them. You would think that means letting Brad Ausmus walk and substituting John Buck in, but the team has said that won't happen.

So, Buck will be re-signed, and offensively, the team may try to trade Richard Hidalgo. The team made a bad move giving him an extension, but his 2003 makes him tradeable. The Atlanta Braves, after they lose Gary Sheffield, or the Dodgers, are good teams to target. In return, land the fifth starter that you so badly need. Then, start Jason Lane (long overdue) in right.

Roy Oswalt will probably have offseason groin surgery, and hopefully put that injury behind him. Wade Miller is doing his annual 2nd half tear, teasing fantasy owners that he'll breakout one day. Jeriome Robertson has won 15 games as an NL rookie, good enough to put him fourth on my ballot. And Tim Redding has done a lot of good things as well. The team has enough candidates to fill a spot (Carlos Hernandez, Rodrigo Rosario), but should go after another top-notch arm instead.

Don't look for any change in the bullpen dominance. Next year the team will be going with Stone and Saarlos full-time, but will probably add a leftie to the mix.

This team won't be very different in 2004, but Gerry Hunsicker must use Hidalgo's big season as reasoning to land another starting pitcher (Odalis Perez?).

Chicago Cubs

Mark my words: there will be no better chance for the Cubs to win the World Series then in 2004. Why?

Lineup:
C- Damian Miller, Benito Santiago
1B- Randall Simon
2B- Fernando Vina
SS- Miguel Tejada
3B- Aramis Ramirez
LF- Moises Alou
CF- Corey Patterson
RF- Sammy Sosa

1. Mark Prior
2. Carlos Zambrano
3. Kerry Wood
4. Matt Clement
5. Juan Cruz

Enough said?

In conclusion, my 2004 AL Central picks are the Twins and Cubs, same as 2003. I didn't mention the Royals and Cardinals, who both have chances next season. The Brewers may very well finish fourth in the division, and are eyeing a playoff berth in 2006. More on that when I publish my organizational reports, the second week after the regular season ends.

Have a good day, and watch some baseball!

17/09/2003

Checkin' on Jonah 

You may or may not have checked out Jonah Keri's chat on Baseball Prospectus last night. If not, you missed the following:

Bryan Smith (Chicago): Jonah...please give me five names that will take big leaps next season. Thanks!

Jonah Keri: Mark Teixeira will have a similar leap to Hank Blalock v03 vs. v02. Brandon Phillips can't help but get better because he was Neifi-riffic this year...actually Neifi put him to shame. Adam Dunn will stay healthy next season, and cut down on his strikeouts just enough to trigger a healthy spike in production. Shawn Green will have a bounceback year after fixing his shoulder. Pat Burrell's 2003 season will look like a weird fluke five years from now.


The Bryan Smith from the question? Yes, that's me. Luckily, Jonah's answer gave me the subject of today's column. I decided to look into the five players PECOTA cards (a necessary tool and worthy of the Premium subscription), and see if I agreed with Jonah's prediction. I mostly looked for similar players, and decided to see how the rest of their career turned out.

So, without further adieu...

1) Mark Teixeira (1B/3B/OF)- What's interesting is that Jonah chose this, after I had started to prepare writing an article on him. I agree that Teixeira has some good years ahead of him, anything from winning the HR crown to leading the league in average.

What I don't agree with, however, are the PECOTA comparisons. While Nate Silver's computer throws names out like Dwight Evans and Jack Clark, my own research led me to Frank Howard, Billy Williams, and Ron Kittle. Let's look at these three players in their rookie seasons:

Howard (1960)- 268/320/464 23HR 77RBI 32BB/108K in 448AB
Williams (1961)- 278/338/484 25HR 86RBI 45BB/70K in 529AB
Kittle (1983)- 254/314/504 35HR 100RBI 39BB/150K in 520AB

Teixeira (2003)- 259/332/477 23HR 77RBI 41BB/112K in 486AB

I think the best of these three comps is Howard, although I wouldn't rule out the incredible career of Howard. He didn't do well the next year, a season shortened by injury. But Howard was a four-time All-Star, including three seasons above forty homers. He never topped a .300BA though, and I do think Teixeira has the capability to do that.

If I was to use Billy Williams as an example, Billy kept his homers around 25-30 his whole career, but increased his batting average. Williams finished his career a .290 hitter, but topped the .300 mark multiple times.

Mark Teixeira could go either way, although next season we should begin to see his true potential. In 2004, Teixeira will likely start hitting in the fifth hole, settling behind Alex Rodriguez and Hank Blalock. They'll be ducks on the pond...can Teixeira deliver?

2) Brandon Phillips (2B)- I'm not so sure on Phillips. Jonah's reasoning for improvement is basically, 'He really can't do any worse.' Yes, Phillips is hitting 208/242/311 this season, which is even below PECOTA's 10th percentile guess of 217/278/337. He barely hit the Mendoza line in AAA, and is looking more like Wilson Betemit than Nomar Garciaparra.

PECOTA threw some interesting comparisons this way, including Jose Valdivielso, a 50s SS with a short history, Bobby Valentine, and Paul Blair. For a Phillips' fan, one can hope for Paul Blair, whom was a tiny OF with Baltimore in the 1970s. Here's a look at Blair's rookie season, then that of Phillips:

Blair ('65)- 234/302/338 5HR 19 2B 8SB in 364AB
Phillips- 205/239/308 6HR 16 2B 4SB in 347AB

Very similar. Their body types are very similar (Blair was 6' and 171lb. to Phillips 5'11'' and 180), and both were good at defense. Phillips showed power promise in the minors, and Blair converted that in the Majors. His high was 26, although he also posted numbers of 18 and 17.

Paul Blair was sensational in 1969, becoming a 20/20 player, gold-glove outfielder, and made his career high in batting average. Don't be surprised if Phillips has a breakout season like that at one point before his career is over. But next year? No, look for numbers along the 250/320/400 line next season.

3. Adam Dunn (OF/1B)- Yes, this may just be Prospectus' way of hoping a former cover boy doesn't go bad. They've had bad luck with Dunn, and Josh Phelps hasn't exactly been sensational this year. Dunn had a bad 2003, in which contact posed to be a huge problem. He showed the unique ability to near 30 homers and the Mendoza line. But at the same time, he can still manage an OBP around .350.

This is an extremely hard player to compare, as not many people (ever) have had the batting eye he does. PECOTA threw out some interesting names, but perhaps none better than Tom Brunansky. The former Twins all-star outfielder is a good comparison, although he wasn't capable of 100 walks in a season (he maxed at 86). Here's a look at the first three seasons each had:

Brunansky '82: 272/377/471 20HR 46RBI in 463AB
Brunansky '83: 227/308/445 28HR 82RBI in 542AB
Brunansky '84: 254/320/460 32HR 85RBI in 567AB

Dunn 2001: 262/371/578 19HR 43RBI in 244AB
Dunn 2002: 249/400/454 26HR 71RBI in 535AB
Dunn 2003: 215/354/465 27HR 57RBI in 381AB

One glaring difference is the fact that Brunansky steadily improved his first three seasons, and Dunn has made serious declines. Bob Boone did a lot of stupid things this season, like putting him at leadup, but this was still a lost year. He has a very long swing, and pitchers exploit it often. I think there's a good chance Dunn will hang around the .250 mark for his career, but that means OBP of .375, and he should knock about 40HR.

Brunansky? No, he never hit the 40HR mark. He maxed out at 32, the same year he was selected to the Midsummer classic. What's noteworthy is that it was his fourth year.

4. Shawn Green (OF)- Shawn Green is a superstar, and this season shouldn't take that away from him. In the past, Shawn has put up some insane numbers at one of the game's hardest stadiums, Chavez Ravine. But Green has to use the rest of his career to prove that hitting 91HR in two seasons wasn't a fluke.

That being said, I wasn't all that surprised when PECOTA spit out Roger Maris, responsible for the largest fluke season ever. But I looked past Maris, and Don Baylor, another PECOTA comp. Instead, I focused on Rocky Colavito, the six-time All-Star. Colavito played from 1955-1968, hitting 374 HR, and appearing on MVP ballots three times. Here's a look at Colavito from 1061-1063, when he took his huge plunge:

RC 1961: 290/402/580 45HR in 583AB
RC 1962: 273/371/514 37HR in 601AB
RC 1962: 271/358/437 22HR in 597AB

And here's a recap of what Green is on the verge of:

SG 2001: 297/372/598 49HR in 619AB
SG 2002: 285/385/558 42HR in 582AB
SG 2003: 276/349/453 17HR in 561AB

Insanely similar numbers! Both had MVP-type seasons in the first season I listed, a small dropoff the next year, and a tailspan in the latter year. What was especially noteworthy was how the average remained in tact, but the SLG% fell out from underneath the player.

Colavito hit 34HR the next season, boosting his OPS back to where it belonged. After that a residual decline led to the end of his career, and a quiet retirement. Shawn Green could have a very similar couple of seasons, returning to 2002 form next year, before slowly walking away.

5) Pat Burrell (OF)- Probably the largest mystery of 2003, and the reason the Phillies haven't locked a Wild Card berth. Burrell was signed to an extension prior to this season, and now has underperformed the PECOTA 10th percentile projection. Jonah suggests that this is just an aberration, yet a similar comparison yields different results.

In 1974, the American League posted low offensive numbers, allowing 23-year-old outfielder Jeff Burroughs to win the MVP. Burroughs followed it up with a pathetic 1975, and was gone as quickly as he had come. A look into Burroughs '74 and '75:

Burroughs '74: 301/397/504 25HR 118RBI in 554AB
Burroughs '75: 226/315/409 29HR 94RBI in 585AB

And now let's compare that to Pat the Bat:

Burrell 2002: 282/376/544 37HR 116RBI in 586AB
Burrell 2003: 212/316/419 21HR 63RBI in 485AB

Another very similar comparison. After his horrible 1975, Burroughs saw his SLG drop even more to .369 in 1976, before re-emerging. He caught on again in 1977, hitting 41HR, and was a 1978 All-Star. While Burroughs sat in a two-year slump, I find it more plausible that Burrell will rebound next year. Will he hit 40HR? Probably not, but at this point the Phillies are praying for baby steps.

Here's my 2004 predictions for all these hitters:

Mark Teixeira- 275/350/500
Brandon Phillips- 250/320/400
Adam Dunn- 240/360/480
Shawn Green- 290/380/500
Pat Burrell- 250/340/450


Back tomarrow...

16/09/2003

Revamping the Worst World Series (2002) 

It's not very difficult to argue that the 2002 World Series was the worst of all-time. It gave viewers two Wild Cards, that used two weeks of good play to make the Big Dance. The Angels proved sabermatricians wrong by showing us that clutch hitting really does matter, and showed MLB the flaws in the playoff roster rules. The Giants used the fear of one batter, Barry Bonds, to revolutionize the way baseball is played.

In 2003, we have seen these teams spiral into two different directions. Anaheim is very close to becoming the first American League team to win the World Series, and then finish in last place. Injuries and lack of luck have brought the Angels record down, along with playing some of the worst 2nd half ball in the Majors. The Giants, on the other hand, have had this division for a couple of months now. Barry Bonds has spent numerous days away from the team, as has potential Cy Young winner Jason Schmidt. But the team has fought through all of this, and is threatening to finish with the best record in the National League.

In the news this week, Barry Bonds has flirted with the possibility of retiring in 60 days. We have to look at where this would take the Giants, and how new ownership will effect the Angels...

Angels Free Agents
Brad Fullmer (DH)
Eric Owens (OF)

San Francisco Free Agents
Rich Aurilla (SS)
Marvin Benard (OF)
Andres Galarraga (1B)
Jeffrey Hammonds (OF)
Sidney Ponson (SP)
Benito Santiago (C)
Tim Worrell (RP)
Eric Young (2B)
MUTUAL OPTION- Jose Cruz Jr. (OF)
MUTUAL OPTION- Felix Rodriguez (RP)
TEAM OPTION- J.T. Snow (1B)

After a World Championship, Angels' management was perfectly content keeping the same team, not seeing any holes. This disappointing season has created new thought. In the last month, I've heard the following rumors:

1) Lee Sinins reported in the Sept. 10 ATM report that Bill Stoneman has a starting pitcher on the top of his wish list. Sinins mentions free agents Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, Greg Maddux, or acquiring Javier Vazquez or Livan Hernandez through trades.

2) The team has expressed interest in SS Miguel Tejada, and on September 9th, Tejada expressed interest in the team as well. The team has also been linked to Japanese SS Kaz Matsui.

3) Carlos Beltran has also been reported (by the LA Times) to be high on the Angels' wish list.

Peter Gammons has reported the team will non-tender Adam Kennedy, and would like to get rid of Darin Erstad. By pursuing a SS in Tejada or even Matsui, the team is moving everyone's favorite player David Eckstein to second. The team will go with Bengie Molina, Scott Spiezio, and Aaron Sele one more season before the likes of Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Bobby Jenks take over.

Darin Erstad's nagging hamstring may move him to 1B, or him and Tim Salmon could take tuns filling the empty DH hole. Ideally, the team's lineup would include the following:
C- Bengie Molina
1B- Scott Spiezio/Darin Erstad
2B- David Eckstein
SS- Free Agent
3B- Troy Glaus
LF- Garret Anderson
CF- Free Agent
RF- Tim Salmon
DH- Erstad/Wooten/Quinlan

Until Santana and Jenks come in, the Angels have a front four locked into the rotation. Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz, John Lackey, and Aaron Sele all have jobs in their back pocket next season. Scot Shields had an opportunity to claim that fifth spot, but the team is convinced he is better suited for middle relief.

So, that leaves the team holes at SS, CF, and SP. Granted, the team could go with Alfredo Amezaga or Chone Figgins at short, Jeff DaVanon in center, and Shields in the rotation. But, this new ownership needs to put a winner back on the field, and try to prove that the 2002 version wasn't a fluke.

There is no questioning the team's ability to trade for any players, as Dallas McPherson would likely go to Kansas City in a Beltran trade. Alberto Callapso, ranked in my top 10 2B list, also could be dealt. The team has a host of pitchers besides Santana and Jenks, like Joe Torres, with considerable upside.

I think the Angels should go hard after Tejada, who has shown interest in the team. After landing him, the team could platoon Davanon and Figgins in center. Then, trade Amezaga and former prospect Chris Bootcheck for Livan Hernandez. This would give the team offensive threats, a much better defense, and more innings from their starters.

Moving on to the Giants...

First, let's say Barry doesn't leave. Inside we all know he wants that record, and the money he is passing up is insane. Here is the 2nd half performances of the four potential Giant free agents:

Snow (1B)- .253/.346/.341 in 91AB
Cruz (RF)- .220/.333/.295 in 173AB
Santiago (C)- .231/.294/.343 in 108AB

Aurilia (SS)- .319/.353/.431 in 144AB

Outside of Aurilia, the other losses won't exactly be devastating. Snow and Cruz have fallen out of Alou's favor, and the Giants will almost surely decline their options. Santiago's age and decline in stats should lead to his exit.

But Aurilia is a different story. The SS played injured the first half, managing an OPS of only .709. But this big 2nd half with an OPS of .789 has changed things, and Aurilia is looking to be a big free agent once again. But with Tejada and Matsui grabbing most of the attention, there appears to be nowhere to go. My guess is the Giants will retain Aurilia, whom has spent his career in a Giants uniform.

So, from an offensive standpoint, the team has some holes. They'll probably allow Yorvit Torrealba to get the full-time job next season, but will likely sign an able backup just in case. First base and right field are huge questions. Don't be surprised if the first base job goes to Pedro Feliz, whom has never gotten a full-time job here. The team will pursue older options in the outfield, toying with players like Rondell White and Reggie Sanders.

Now to the pitching...

It wasn't long ago that the Giants had the best Major League ready pitching prospect depth in the minors. Jerome Williams has now hit the big stage...by himself. Kurt Ainsworth suffered a horrific accident in April, and then was traded in July. And top prospect Jesse Foppert was in the Majors for 21 starts, but will likely be out until 2005 with arm surgery. That leaves the team a little more short-armed than they would have hoped for.

Jason Schmidt, whom has elevated himself into true ace status, is re-signed next season. As is Kirk Rueter, whom the Giants need to have a successful and healthy 2004. Jerome Williams has done good in his first Major League trial, and could be prepared for a Sophmore jump. But, this team simply can't have the likes of Jim Brower, Kevin Correia, and Dustin Hermanson filling out this rotation.

Sidney Ponson has pitched great since coming from Baltimore, using Pac Bell's spacious dimensions to his advantage. The team would love to re-sign him, but it will be difficult. He rejected a 3-year, $21M offer from the Orioles, something the Giants would be hard-pressed to beat. Among others, the White Sox should be hot after his trail this winter, and the Giants might lose.

In the bullpen, the team will hope Robb Nen returns to full form next year. Felix Rodriguez will be gone next year, as the team is getting sick of flirting with his successes. I expect them to bring Tim Worrell back, unless some team considerably tops the team's offer. And Joe Nathan will return, whom is quickly becoming one of the Majors' best at retiring right-handers.

Brian Sabean must not worry about Barry Bonds this offseason, but rather have his mind here:

- Is re-signing Rich Aurilia necessary to this offense?
- Can Pedro Feliz hit 30HR in 500AB?
- Who could be the 2002 version of Reggie Sanders in 2003?
- What is the next option for SP holes if Ponson walks?

And the answers: yes, yes, Carl Everett/Raul Mondesi, try Brian Anderson and Pat Hentgen (flyballers) in the SP holes.

FACT: The 2004 Angels will not win the AL West.
PREDICTION: The 2004 Giants will finish below the San Diego Padres.

Have a good one...

15/09/2003

Left Disappointed 

There are not many baseball publications I look forward to reading more than Sports Weekly and Baseball America. But this weekend, these two sensational magazines left me more than disappointed.

On Friday, I looked at the Baseball America Player of the Year award. Again, the 10 candidates were:

1. Josh Barfield- 2B- Padres- High A- 20 years old

2. Travis Blackley- LHP- Mariners- AA- 20 years old

3. Bobby Crosby- SS- Athletics- AAA- 23 years old

4. Prince Fielder- 1B- Brewes- low-A- 20 years old

5. Zack Greinke- RHP- Royals- high-A/AA- 19 years old

6. Joe Mauer- C- Twins- high-A/AA- 20 years old

7. Dallas McPherson- 3B- Angels- 23 years old

8. Greg Miller- LHP- Dodgers- High-A/AA- 18 years old

9. Jeremy Reed- OF- White Sox- High-A/AA- 23 years old

10. Alexis Rios- OF- Blue Jays- AA- 22 years old

The condition of having a prospect win the award was a need for Baseball America, taking out players like Fernando Seguignol. But, all these ten players are prospects, so shouldn’t the winner go to the player with the best numbers?

Here’s my pick vs. Baseball America’s choice

Wait ‘Til Next Year Choice:
High-A (222AB): .333/.431/.477 4HR/52RBI 41BB/17K 27SB
AA (242AB): .409/.474/.591 7HR/43RBI 29BB/19K 18SB
Notes: Led minor leagues in average, made 3E playing CF, RF

Baseball America Choice:
High-A (233AB): .335/.395/.412 1HR/44RBI 24BB/24K 3SB
AA (276AB): .341/.400/.453 4HR/41RBI 25BB/25K 0SB
Notes: Threw out 57% of potential base stealers behind plate

So, Jeremy Reed (Wait ‘Til Next Year’s selection) won out in AVE, OBP, SLG, HR, RBI, BB/K, and SB, but lost? Granted, Joe Mauer, the official 2003 Baseball America Player of the Year, has great defensive value, but very subpar numbers. Surely, Baseball America took this into account.

No, they just wanted to give their #1 prospect in all of baseball another award for his shelf. This seems like in Little League when the All-Star teams are made up of coaches’ sons rather than the best players. Jeremy Reed had the best season of anyone in the minor leagues, but he wasn’t chose because Mauer is Baseball America’s favorite player.

Moving on...

In the September 10-16 edition of Sports Weekly, the magazine gave their final Organizational Power Rankings. These are supposed to dictate teams’ farm systems, but they also include the progress of rookies into the rankings. The magazine’s list follows, with an occasional comment from the magazine:

1. Cleveland Indians- “Some conspicuous failures, but ample successes too”
2. Texas Rangers
3. New York Mets- “Lower levels indicate a return to the glory days of great pitching”
4. Kansas City Royals- “Lots of right-handers...recent first-rounders doing well”
5. Toronto Blue Jays- “The best upper-level talent”
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. Milwaukee Brewers- “Nearly all of their blue-chippers...performed well”
9. Baltimore Orioles
10. Oakland Athletics
11. Minnesota Twins
12. Atlanta Braves
13. Anaheim Angels- “One more year before the good ones arrive”
14. Houston Astros- “Decent progress among prospects”
15. Florida Marlins- “Trades cut into an already-thin talent corps”
16. Seattle Mariners- “Top-heavy on pitching”
17. Chicago Cubs- “Some terrific young arms”
18. Philadelphia Phillies
19. Colorado Rockies
20. Los Angeles Dodgers- “Pitching on the way, but that’s it”
21. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
22. Montreal Expos
23. San Francisco Giants- “but their top-pitchers...weren’t as successful”
24. San Diego Padres
25. Boston Red Sox
26. Cincinnati Reds
27. Detroit Tigers- “There was a ton of talent at low-A West Michigan”
28. St. Louis Cardinals- “Star-quality players aren’t apparent”
29. Chicago White Sox- “A few semi-breakouts, but much more of the opposite”
30. New York Yankees- “Injuries, trades, overhyped disappointments and infighting have decimated a system”

Now I have yet to complete a final list, so I’ll probably make some ignorant comments too. Why I thought thought those comments were bad:

- You mean to tell me the best thing they could say about their top choice was they had “ample successes” to go along with “conspicuous failures”? While I agree the Indians have a deep farm system, I don’t think this was a banner year.
- They say the Royals recent-first rounders are doing well? Yes, Zack Greinke had an amazing season. But Colt Griffin, Mike Todolka, and Kyle Snyder remain disappointments.
- And the system that has “The best upper-level talent” only checks in at five? You can be sure the Blue Jays will be in my top 2.
- My number one choice will likely be the Milwaukee Brewers. If “nearly all of their blue chippers...performed well” then why are they all the way down at 8? You mean Palmisano, Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Hart, Krynzel, Parra, and Jones isn’t enough for you?
- “One more year before the good ones arrive.” That seems to be an optimistic statement, and I think the Angels have a ton to look forward to. Of my top prospect lists, they had a catcher, first basemen, and third basemen in the top 2, with a second basemen and two pitchers also in my rankings. Their system will be in my top 5 for sure.
- “Decent progress among prospects” and “Trades cut into already thin corps” were still AHEAD of systems that were touted to be “Top-heavy on pitching” and having “some terrific young arms.” The Cubs and Mariners are DEFINITLY above the Astros and Marlins.
- “Pitching on the way, but that’s it.” About the Dodgers? I think Koyie Hill, James Loney, and Franklyn Gutierrez all are solid players. In fact, Loney and Gutierrez can make arguments for being two of the top 30 sluggers in baseball.
- If any level of your system has “a ton of talent”, you probably shouldn’t be twenty-seven. Granted, the Tigers won’t be too far up on my own rankings, but I won’t complement their talent to justify my position.
- The White Sox and Yankees are too low. A few semi-breakouts, but much more of the opposite. Yes, Corwin Malone and Joe Borchard fell out of favor for the Sox. But Jeremy Reed, Ryan Wing, and Emencio Pacheco broke out, and that doesn’t begin to talk about Kris Honel and Aaron Miles.
- It says that trades have hurt the Yankees system? Yet in fact, they received more prospects in Raul Mondesi and Robin Ventura than they paid for Aaron Boone.
- Finally, the Cards are last. Its true that “star-quality players aren’t apparent.” Well guess what? Jeremy Reed, Kris Honel, Dioner Navarro, and Rudy Guillen are all better than any Cardinal prospect.

Enough complaining. I’m really working on my own organizational rankings, but I can’t agree on a final copy. I’m shooting for some time this week, but I have a lot planned this week.

I should say that while I’m truly disappointed by these two magazines, I will still be an avid reader of both. And you’ll see me referring to Baseball America a lot on this site.

And don't even get me started on the Billy Beane chat...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?