WTNYSeptember 29, 2003
The 2003-2004 WaTNeY awards
By Bryan Smith

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!