Baseball BeatMarch 29, 2004
Nothing But the 'Net
By Rich Lederer

Monday morning musings:

  • Bob Keisser of the (Long Beach) Press-Telegram wrote another sabermetrically oriented article in today's newspaper regarding Paul DePodesta ("Numbers Game for New GM"). Keisser is one of a growing numbers of sportwriters who understands and appreciates baseball's new wave of general managers.

    DePodesta discusses the need for blending statistics with the human element, working pitchers deeper into the count, and college players vs. preps:

    "Mark Prior went to college and Kerry Wood signed out of high school. Jim Thome was drafted from high school, Jason Giambi out of college. Eric Chavez went pro out of high school, and Troy Glaus went to college.

    "There's definitely a mix. There's probably an ideal blend there somewhere. The key is you can't limit yourself to just college or high school. If you do, you may miss on some guys.

    "You have two or three more years to scout a guy who plays college and have a better idea what he will look like physically than you do a kid who's 17 or 18. But there are high school kids who get up here (the majors) just as fast, like Sean Burroughs. What you look for is the common ingredient that makes someone a success."

  • Randy Youngman, a columnist for the Orange County Register, prepared a 25-man roster of past and present major-leaguers from county high schools and listed Garry Templeton (Santa Ana Valley HS) as the starting shortstop over Arky Vaughan (Fullerton). Templeton (.271/.304/.369) had over 2,000 hits in his 16-year big league career but pales in comparison to the Hall of Famer Vaughan (.318/.406/.453), who most sabermetricians would argue is the second or third best shortstop of all time.

    Walter Johnson (Fullerton), Orange County's finest, and Gary Carter (Sunny Hills) are the other HOFers on this select team. Bert Blyeven (Santiago), Bret Boone (El Dorado), Trevor Hoffman (Savanna), Jeff Kent (Edison), and Dan Quisenberry (Costa Mesa) also appear on this high school squad.

  • Richard Ceccarelli, an 18-year-old college student, started Pearly Gates last month. The website is devoted to his hometown Anaheim Angels. Richard asked his readers for a nickname for the Angels' new lineup, featuring Guerrero, Garrett, Glaus, and Guillen in the 3-4-5-6 spots. My suggestion? The G-String.

  • The Montreal Expos recently announced that the team will retire Tim Raines' jersey number 30 on June 19. Fittingly, the Expos will play the Chicago White Sox that game. Raines played in Montreal from 1979-1990 and the south side of Chicago from 1991-1995.

    I drafted Raines for my APBA team after his outstanding rookie season in 1981 and followed the early part of his career with utmost interest. Raines was the National League's version of Rickey Henderson and one of the best left fielders and leadoff hitters of all time. I believe he is as underappreciated as Bert Blyleven and Fred McGriff.

    For more on Raines, I recommend reading Rock On, Tim Raines by Jay Jaffe of The Futility Infielder. If you don't think Raines is a Hall of Famer now, you will after reading Jay's excellent piece.

  • Baseball BeatMarch 25, 2004
    Fred McGreat
    By Rich Lederer

    Fred McGriff was reassigned to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' minor league camp yesterday. Is the Crime Dog's 18-year run in the majors over? If so, is he worthy of the Hall of Fame?

    Before you dismiss his case, please reach back into your memory bank beyond the past ten years and think about the 40-year-old first baseman's accomplishments with the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, and his first full year with the Atlanta Braves. Prior to the ball and players getting more juiced up, Frederick Stanley McGriff was one of the very best hitters in all of baseball.

    Don't believe me? Let's take a look.

    First of all, did you realize that McGriff finished in the top ten in the MVP voting for six consecutive years (1989-1994)? If you don't think that is an impressive feat, consider that Barry Bonds has never--I repeat NEVER--placed in the top ten in the MVP balloting six straight years.

    Speaking of streaks, is ranking among the top nine in the league in slugging average, on-base plus slugging (OPS), and adjusted OPS+ for seven years in a row (1988-1994) any good? Get this, McGriff was actually in the top five in OPS each of those years. Over the 1988-1994 period, McGriff ranked third in the majors in OPS and fourth in slugging.

    Was McGriff just a slugger? No, far from it. He also ranked in the top four in on-base percentage for four consecutive years (1989-1992).

    Ahh, a rate stat guy, ehh? Wrong again, doubters. McGriff finished among the top six in total bases every year from 1988-1994 except in 1991 when he finished 11th of all things, one total base behind Bonds. The lefthanded-hitting first baseman was also third in Runs Created Above Average during this period.

    All right, so the guy could rake a bit way back when. But a seven-year stretch does not a career make, you say? I dunno. You be the judge:

    ALL-TIME CAREER RANKINGS:

    Hits                  81st
    Walks                 33rd
    Runs                  86th
    Runs Batted In        34th
    Extra-Base Hits       30th
    Home Runs             21st
    Total Bases           38th
    Times on Base         47th

    Source: Baseball-Reference.com

    Yes, folks, Fred McGriff ranks among the top 100 in every one of those major hitting categories and in the top 50 in all but hits and runs scored.

    But he hasn't hit 500 home runs, you argue? Well, you're right there. If that is the de facto criteria for getting into the Hall of Fame, then maybe they ought to just close the damn place down. Either that or call it the Hall of Home Runs. Induct the 19 players with 500 or more homers and be done with it. Simple. Easy. No more arguing about who's in and who's not.

    Rafael Palmeiro shows up at the doorsteps of Cooperstown. "Oh, you got 500 HR?" ... (sound of the gatekeeper whistling) ... "Hey, Ernie, make room for one more." Fred McGriff shows up. "You don't have 500? Sorry, bud, this place ain't for you."

    If the voters ever decide to limit Hall of Famers to those with 500 HR, then I sure as heck hope they hand me over the plaques for Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski, Ralph Kiner, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, and Hank Greenberg (not to mention a slew of hitters who were not known for their slugging prowess). Boy, these plaques would sure look good in my collection, let me tell ya.

    I can hear the naysayers now. "Yes, McGriff hit 491 HR, but he played in an era when they were so plentiful they didn't mean as much." Well, I'm not so sure about that.

    The following table ranks the players by the difference in their career home run totals and the league average.

    CAREER HOME RUNS (1900-2003)
    DIFF BETWEEN PLAYER AND LEAGUE AVG

                                    DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   
    1    Babe Ruth                   622      714       92   
    2    Hank Aaron                  457      755      298   
    3    Barry Bonds                 426      658      232   
    4    Mark McGwire                405      583      178   
    5    Jimmie Foxx                 403      534      131   
    6    Willie Mays                 389      660      271   
    7    Lou Gehrig                  377      493      116   
    8    Ted Williams                376      521      145   
    9    Mel Ott                     373      511      138   
    10   Mike Schmidt                367      548      181   
    11   Harmon Killebrew            361      573      212   
    12   Mickey Mantle               346      536      190   
    13   Frank Robinson              337      586      249   
    14   Willie McCovey              333      521      188   
    15   Reggie Jackson              327      563      236   
    16   Sammy Sosa                  317      539      222   
    17   Willie Stargell             305      475      170   
    T18  Eddie Mathews               285      512      227   
    T18  Dave Kingman                285      442      157   
    20   Ken Griffey Jr.             280      481      201   
    21   Ernie Banks                 266      512      246   
    22   Rafael Palmeiro             262      528      266   
    23   Jose Canseco                254      462      208   
    24   Johnny Mize                 252      359      107   
    25   Fred McGriff                251      491      240   
    26   Ralph Kiner                 247      369      122   
    27   Juan Gonzalez               241      429      188   
    28   Joe DiMaggio                240      361      121   
    29   Hank Greenberg              239      331       92   
    30   Stan Musial                 234      475      241

    Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia

    Let me say that I'm not wild about Dave Kingman, Jose Canseco, and Juan Gonzalez appearing on the above list either. But the other 26 players are either in the Hall of Fame or bound to get there shortly after retirement.

    With respect to Kingman, Canseco, and Gonzalez, I don't think anyone believes that the former is in the same class as McGriff. Kingman hit home runs and did very little else. As far as Canseco and Gonzalez go, I admit there are some similarities among these three. However, McGriff's counting stats are better than Canseco's across the board, and he has superior career batting and on-base averages as well. Canseco only nudges him out in slugging average (.515 to .511). With respect to Gonzalez, he may or may not end up with comparable numbers. It all depends on whether he can rejuvenate and prolong his career.

    Who else is comparable to McGriff? According to Similarity Scores, a concept introduced by Bill James in his book The Politics of Glory (p. 86-106), the following players can be described as "similar" or "essentially similar":

    Willie McCovey (889) *
    Willie Stargell (883) *
    Rafael Palmeiro (863)
    Andres Galarraga (855)
    Billy Williams (849) *
    Jeff Bagwell (829)
    Chili Davis (828)
    Eddie Mathews (828) *
    Dwight Evans (814)
    Ernie Banks (814) *

    * - Signifies Hall of Famer

    Of the ten comps above, five are already in the Hall of Fame. In addition, Jeff Bagwell should be a surefire HOFer and Palmeiro appears likely to gain enshrinement as well. As such, seven of McGriff's ten most similar batters have or will soon have plaques in Cooperstown.

    How does McGriff compare to his fellow first basemen?

    RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE
    FIRST BASEMEN (1900-2003)

                                    RCAA    
    1    Lou Gehrig                 1247   
    2    Jimmie Foxx                 985   
    3    Frank Thomas                770   
    4    Johnny Mize                 667   
    5    Mark McGwire                665   
    6    Jeff Bagwell                663   
    7    Willie McCovey              606   
    8    Rafael Palmeiro             562   
    9    Hank Greenberg              549   
    10   Jim Thome                   528   
    11   Harmon Killebrew            516   
    12   Dick Allen                  511   
    13   Eddie Murray                490   
    14   Fred McGriff                486   
    15   Will Clark                  473   
    16   Jason Giambi                445   
    17   Bill Terry                  425

    Note: The above list excludes three players who played more games at first base than any other single position, yet I feel should be classified elsewhere--Musial (OF), Pete Rose (anything but 1B), and Rod Carew (2B). It also includes Frank Thomas and Jason Giambi, both of whom may be considered more as DHs when their careers are all said and done. However, in the cases of Thomas and Giambi, they will each have enjoyed their greatest seasons as first basemen.

    Other than Dick Allen, all of the players above McGriff are either in the HOF or likely to gain admittance once they become eligible. Furthermore, there are several others--including recent inductees Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez--who fall well below McGriff's standing and yet have made their way to Cooperstown.

    I'm not suggesting that McGriff belongs in the inner circle of the Hall, but I think he is certainly worthy of inclusion based on his accomplishments and rankings. No, he is not someone who jumps out at you and screams "Hall of Famer" like another contemporary by the name of Mark McGwire. By the same token, I don't think McGriff is the type of player who can be rejected flat out like so many others.

    In the meantime, McGriff needs to come to grips with his more immediate future. He ceased being a productive player last year and is unlikely to find an employer willing to give him another shot as he enters the fifth decade of his life. McGriff no longer hits well enough to warrant a job as a 1B or DH. In fact, Fred's bat has slowed to such an extent that his slugging average in 2003 was a career low and the number of times he struck out was more than double his walk count for the first time ever.

    The bottom line is that it's time for ol' Fred to hang 'em up. McGriff wasn't just a good player, he was a great player. Unfortunately, the operative word at the moment is the three-letter word "was", as in the past tense.

    Five years from now, the Baseball Writers Association of America will decide whether he was a good player or a great one. Put me squarely in the camp of being skeptical as to whether these voters can see beyond McGriff's failure to reach 500 HR, if that ends up being the case. Remember, it's these same voters who have penalized Bert Blyleven for coming up short of the 300-win magic mark despite career totals that place him among the all-time best in strikeouts, shutouts, and several other more advanced metrics.

    Perhaps Blyleven will have made it to the HOF by the time McGriff becomes eligible. If so, Bert's inclusion could go a long way toward helping tear down certain statistical barriers to entry. If Blyleven hasn't made it in by then, McGriff will undoubtedly have a difficult time overcoming those missing nine home runs. And that would be a crime, dog.

    WTNYMarch 24, 2004
    Youth Movement
    By Bryan Smith

    While the media spends Spring Training looking for progress and position decisions, I find the more interesting stories to be in the youth. First, I try to keep up with members of the Rule V draft, I simply don't want to say I missed out on the next Johan Santana. Secondly, I'm going to look at the progress made by my top 50 prospect list.

    Before examining the close choices that some Rule V picks will be involved in, let's look at the changes we've seen since December 15. Tampa Bay selection Alec Zumwalt and Boston choice Colter Bean have been returned to the Braves and Yankees respectively. David Mattox, a Red chosen from the New York Mets, will spend the year away from baseball with significant arm problems. Another Met, Lenny Dinardo, has not gotten in a Spring Training game yet, due to what the New York Times called 'shoulder stiffness'.

    Matt White has had a tumultuous two years bouncing between the Cleveland, Boston, Seattle and Colorado bullpens. White did very well at AAA last year, but has struggled horribly since returning to Cleveland, allowing six hits in less than three innings. Frank Brooks, the southpaw once deal for Mike Williams, is also making his rounds. Brooks has not allowed a run in four Spring Training innings, split between the team that first drafted him (Oakland), and the team he is sticking with the Yankees II concept. Finally, the Cardinals have talked about how much they like Hector Luna, and Walt Jocketty is expected to make such a trade in this regard.

    So that leaves thirteen players that were drafted in the Major League portion of the Rule V draft, starting with former Pirate Chris Shelton. The ex-Buc is 9/20 in camp so far, and should stick with the team. Rich Thompson, the second overall choice, will stay on this club despite just seven hits in thirty-one at-bats.

    In my mind, there are four other players that are locks to make their teams: Jeff Bennett (RH, MIL), Jason Szuminski (RH, SD), Jason Grilli (RH, CHW) and Andy Fox (IF, MON). Grilli has pitched terrible with the White Sox during Spring Training, but he's often been mentioned as a candidate for the next musical. Fox is a veteran that was in the draft by a loophole, and is the kind of move that Omar Minaya is becoming paid for.

    Bennett has not allowed a run in six Spring Training innings, notably due to his heavy fastball. Finally, Rod Beck's sudden disinterest sucks, but it is probably best for the team. Szminski is going to make the Padres since Beck will start tending to important family memebers.

    This leaves seven players that were drafted in the Major League portion:

    1. Chris Mabeus- TEX
    2. Talley Haines- TOR
    3. Willy Tavares- OF HOU
    4. Mike Bumatay- LHP TEX
    5. Jose Bautista- 3B- BAL
    6. Luis Gonzalez- UT- COL
    7. Lino Urdaneta- RH- DET

    The latter three have all done very well in Spring Training, but there is no real place to fit them on the team's roster. The higher ranked people are struggling against the middle-class group, just like my prospect list is seeing.

    Yes, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have proven themselves worthy during Spring Training thus far, but these two along with Bobby Crosby, Grady Sizemore, and especially James Loney and Travis Blackley. Loney's performance has been so good that even Baseball Prospectus has officially jumped on the bandwagon.

    Edwin Jackson was told he had the fifth starter spot prior to Spring Training, but there is a problem. Jackson has allowed 10ER in 11.2IP, not exactly what I envisioned from my #1 pitching prospect. My #2, Greg Miller, is not out for the entire season but should make a noble return in August. Zack Greinke, who began camp dazzling Royal scouts, also struggled (8 hits in 4.2IP), and will start the year in AAA.

    Jeremy Reed will be forced to do the same as he is only 5/30 in Spring Training thus far, definitely beneath the Aaron Rowand level. Alexis Rios was very good in thirty-four at-bats, again showing his power spike with two home runs. Rios, if moved to right field during the season, could help the team in a similar fashion to what Miguel Cabrera did last year.

    Prospects and Rule V selections are guessing games, but I feel it's definitely important to evaluate both areas.

    Baseball BeatMarch 23, 2004
    Buy The Kid A (Soft) Drink
    By Rich Lederer

    The All-Baseball team has gathered around the table to discuss Miguel Cabrera's outlook.

    I'm estimating that the talented youngster, who won't turn 21 until April, will follow up his rookie season with an even better performance in 2004. In fact, I asked the group if anyone would be willing to take the unders on the halfway point between my rate stat projections (.284/.344/.520) and those established by PECOTA (.264/.323/.439).

    I'll propose the same friendly bet to my readers here. I've got the overs on .274/.333/.479.

    What does your crystal ball say?

    WTNYMarch 22, 2004
    NL Ponderings
    By Bryan Smith

    Its been very difficult to post this last week, Im working extremely hard to put out pieces for the Hardball Times. Once the season starts I should get in a groove that will allow me enough time to do proper work for both, but right now Im hard at work over there. Keep checking in here though, as Im inclined to turn this place more blog-like, putting out multiple pieces a day. In the mean time, a run through each National League camp:

    San Francisco: Jason Schmidts health is so key to this team, and he was scratched from his last start, as a precaution. San Diego likely didnt make up 30 games on this team, but if Schmidt cant start 30 games than it will be a tight race. Pedro Felix has added the shortstop position to his repertoire, which doesnt look good for you few Neifi Perez supporters. This shouldnt completely prevent Perez from getting the job, though Im praying Felipe Alou has enough common sense to give the job to Cody Ransom, I mean, at least hes Neifis younger

    San Diego: Rotoworld is reporting Brian Lawrence is having some velocity problems with that fastball, so watch out, maybe Ismael Valdes will land a spot with this team. With Lawrence and David Wells in the rotation, health could be an issue in So Cal all year long. Khalil Greene won a job by default, which I guess is nice. I think Greene will be an average shortstop, hitting about .275 with 15 home runs annually. If they were considering Rey Ordonez than that must be music to Kevin Towers ears, huh?

    Arizona: Luis Gonzalez is a timebomb, with some given amount of time before he lands on the 60-day DL. His offensive contributions are so key that when the bomb goes off, so do the Diamondbacks chances. One interesting Spring Training story is the out of nowhere performance by Casey Daigle, who might now just be the favorite for the fifth spot. Hes finished by the time Edgar Gonzalez is ready, but its a nice human interest Spring Training piece.

    Los Angeles: Paul DePodesta simply must make a deal for a hitter this Spring Training, whether its Jay Gibbons or Richard Hidalgo. I mean, Paul Loduca in left field? Who thinks of this stuff? I like Edwin Jackson for the fifth spot, but hes one of the few sure things in this rotation. I mean, I think Jered Weaver is a much safer bet than his brother at this point.

    Colorado: So Larry Walker is out indefinitely, leaving Rene Reyes to the outfield job that he deserves. I was a believer in Miles at second, Bellhorn at short, Atkins at third and Reyes in left, but instead the team brought in Damian Jackson, Royce Clayton, Vinny Castilla and Jeremy Burnitz. Walker is a huge piece of this team, and their quest to the NLs worst record (and the #2 pick in the 2005 draft) has already begun.

    Chicago: Despite a sore Achilles, everything is going well in Cubdom. I would like it if Juan Cruz looked a little more ready to start the season, but I guess you cant always get what you want. And is anyone else depressed that Jimmy Anderson is going to be on the roster of the team that is Vegas NL favorite? Watching Sergio Mitre pitch last year made me think he would make a good reliever, and now it appears the team is going to give him a chance, as Mitre has probably moved past Todd Wellemeyer in the sixth reliever race, well ahead of Phil Rogers choice of Gary Glover.

    Houston: I made a bet today, over/under on Pettites 2004 ERA. 4.20? What does everyone thinkover or under?

    St. Louis: Plenty to talk about here. First of all, Tony La Russa is talking, again, about batting the pitcher eighth in the lineup. This makes no sense to me, especially on a team that is going to have a #6 hitter as talented as Reggie Sanders. To put Mike Matheny and Matt Morris behind a good doubles slugger like Sanders is a pity, and Sanders should pay them back with about 60 runs scored.

    Ray Lankford, back from the dead, looks to have snagged the left field and leadoff duties, beating out Kerry Robinson. My thinking was that the team should play Pujols in left, start John Gall at first, and give up someone for Jerry Hairston. Instead Lankford has a job, the team gives up something for Tony Womack, and Hairston is out a month. Ouch.

    Milwaukee: Yes, I believe it entirely possible for the Brewers to make a run at the fourth place crown this year. Doug Melvin is doing a lousy job of moving Junior Spivey, a player that in this market should have a decent market. I mean, the Cardinals arent in a dire enough situation to give up former Illinois right-hander Jim Journell, are they?

    Pittsburgh: Last year Bobby Hill had to try not to land the Cubs 2B job, and remarkably, succeeded. This year, despite still fighting the back problems that have bothered him for more than one year, is likely being handed the 2B and leadoff duties. Also, are the Kris Benson and Jason Kendall rumors possibly getting to this team. Benson will probably be dealt by June 1, while I dont think Kendall is movable at this point.

    Cincinnati: I really have nothing good to say here, there is just no optimism in Cincy this season. If they could possibly find a buyer for Ken Griffey, does it matter what they are asking.

    Philadelphia: What is this I hear about Chase Utley possibly not making the team? OK, I can deal with Keith Ginter getting snubbed by Junior Spivey, but Utley not getting a job? Chase is a way for the Phillies to have twenty homers from the middle infield. Give Polanco the hot corner, and tell David Bell to swallow his pride and go back to the role he had with both San Francisco and Seattle.

    Atlanta: Is Andy Marte this seasons Miguel Cabrera? Quite possibly. Luckily for the Braves there are no injuries to report this Spring Training, something Bobby Cox will have to strive to have all season long. By the way, Im buying Rafael Furcal as the best leadoff man in baseball.

    New York: Kaz Matsui has come out swinging this Spring Training, notching three extra-base hits very quickly in his short career. Matsui should be right around the .295/.330/.445 projections that everyone seems to be making, which will make him a decent shortstop. Jose Reyes, currently out with a hamstring injury, is a much superior baseball player. Might the Rangers take Kaz instead?

    Florida: What is this I hear about a changed delivery for Dontrelle Willis? That, and the Britney Spears concerts being cancelled, are easily the top two most disappointing things from Spring Training.

    Expos: Who?

    Baseball BeatMarch 20, 2004
    Bobbing and Weavering
    By Rich Lederer

    On the same day in which brother Jeff Weaver of the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up eight hits and four earned runs over five innings in a Grapefruit League game against the Florida Marlins, Jered Weaver pitched seven shutout innings to lead the 10th-ranked Long Beach State 49ers (14-5) to a 4-0 victory over the 17th-ranked University of Arizona Wildcats (11-8-1). (Box Score)

    The younger Weaver allowed only three hits, one walk, and one hit batter as he improved his record to 7-0 on Thursday night at Blair Field in Long Beach. Jered's ERA (0.71) is now one-tenth of his brother's ERA this spring (7.07).


    Weaver vs. Arizona:

                IP  H   R   ER  BB  K
    Weaver      7   3   0   0   1   3

    Season Totals:

               IP     H    R   ER   BB   K    ERA    W-L
    Weaver     50.2   20   4   4    6    73   0.71   7-0

    What was missing this time around were the strikeouts. Weaver only fanned three Wildcats, the fewest Ks he's had in his last 20 starts. The big righthander had been working on a streak of five outings of 10 or more whiffs, including back-to-back games of 15 strikeouts heading into his start vs. Arizona.

    Going into the game, I was concerned as to whether Weaver's career-high 120 pitches the previous Friday vs. UCLA combined with starting on one day less rest than normal would negatively affect his performance against the Wildcats. As it turned out, Weaver definitely did not have his best stuff. He hit 92 and 93 on the speed guns on occasion but was not his usual overpowering self.

    Although the All-American had an impressive strikes-to-balls ratio of 2.1:1 over his 114 pitch count total, he threw nearly as many first pitch balls as strikes. Working behind in the count more often than he had in any previous start this year, Weaver seemed to be throwing in the high-80s as much as in the low-90s. He also went with his fastball about 80% of the time, mixing in an assortment of varying off-speed breaking balls and change-ups as needed.

    On one hand, Weaver was not nearly as dominant as he had been in the other four appearances that I have witnessed this year. On the other hand, it was notable that the 21-year-old did so well with as little as he had that night.

    More than anything, Weaver knows how to pitch. His stuff is good but not great for a big leaguer. The scouts like his size (6'7", 205), outstanding command, ability to change speeds, and mound presence. I think Weaver projects as a 6 or 7 K/9 type pitcher, not an 8 or 9 guy despite his collegiate record.

    Let's take a look at some potentially comparable major league pitchers based on their 2003 seasons.

    RIGHT HANDED PITCHERS
    STRIKEOUTS/9 IP BETWEEN 6 AND 7
    WALKS/9 IP < 3

                                  K/9 IP   BB/9 IP
    1   Roy Halladay               6.90     1.08   
    2   Livan Hernandez            6.87     2.20   
    3   Kevin Millwood             6.85     2.76   
    4   John Lackey                6.66     2.91   
    5   Miguel Batista             6.61     2.79   
    6   Bartolo Colon              6.43     2.49   
    7   Ben Sheets                 6.40     1.75   
    8   Brad Penny                 6.33     2.57   
    9   Matt Morris                6.27     2.04   
    10  Woody Williams             6.24     2.24   
    11  Tim Hudson                 6.08     2.29

    Source: Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia

    Roy Halladay, Miguel Batista, and Tim Hudson are extreme groundball type pitchers, which Weaver is clearly not. Even Livan Hernandez and Matt Morris have higher GB/FB ratios than Weaver. That narrows the field down to Kevin Millwood, John Lackey, Bartolo Colon, Ben Sheets, Brad Penny, and Woody Williams.

    Although there is a difference in their height, I think Sheets (6'1", 200) may be Weaver's most comparable major leaguer. Both were excellent college pitchers and have a similar array of pitches (low-to-mid-90s fastball, curveball, and change-up). Sheets was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers as the tenth pick in the first round of the 1999 draft.

    Given their similar builds, looks, and styles, one cannot dismiss the possibility that Jered may also be comparable to his older brother Jeff, who was an outstanding college pitcher in his own right at Fresno State. What's unknown is whether Jered would be more like the 2000-2002 version of Jeff or the 2003 model that resulted in a disastrous season with the New York Yankees and a subsequent trade to his hometown Dodgers.

    And that, my friends, brothers, and Padres, is the multi-million dollar question.

    Photo Credit: Matt Brown

    WTNYMarch 18, 2004
    The AL on 5/1
    By Bryan Smith

    On May 1 of this year, most of you will open up a newspaper and look at the Major League standings. Most likely, you’ll find yourself somewhat surprised by who is on top and who is on bottom, trying to recall the events of the past month. A key principle in this will be how the teams played in April, how good their opponents were, and how many times they’re playing within their confines.

    It seems that Major League Baseball scheduling is an inexact science, and while teams finish the same in the long run, magnifying the short term will tell us things as well. Today I’ll be changing the site name to ‘Wait ‘Til Next Month”, in honor of my American League shirt that’s years old.

    Each American League division has three ‘contenders’, although I would argue that the Blue Jays, White Sox and Mariners are all pretenders this season. Toronto is a good team in a great division, the White Sox have disastrously bad pitching, and the Mariners don’t have nearly the star power that Anaheim or Oakland possess. And don’t even ask about the Orioles, let’s just say I’m a seller on them.

    Baltimore will play twenty-four games before May 1, tied with Seattle, New York and Boston for most in the American League. The other division teams, Toronto and Tampa Bay, will play twenty-three and twenty-two games respectively. Camden Yards will see 14 of the 24 games, or approximentally 58.3%, third best in the AL. Baltimore got the fourth overall ranking in my Strength of Opponents test, basically applying numerical values to each hand. When combining the Home% and test% and ranking the teams, you’ll get this list:

    1. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
    2. Texas Rangers
    3. Oakland Athletics
    4. Toronto Blue Jays
    4. Boston Red Sox
    6. Anaheim Angels
    7. Seattle Mariners
    7. New York Yankees
    9. Baltimore Orioles
    10. Detroit Tigers
    10. Cleveland Indians
    12. Chicago White Sox
    13. Kansas City Royals
    14. Minnesota Twins

    Baltimore is not sensational, good for the ninth easiest April 2004 schedule, bur I was feeling a little more sick to my stomach. The Orioles must invest in pitching in the future, or none of the players will be in the Majors the next time an ace comes about. It will be pitching that really holds the Orioles back, but the team will only be forced to throw their fifth starter twice during the month. The Yankees and Blue Jays will need their fifth starter three times, while the Orioles could get away with just one. This luxury offers managers more time to make their decision. For example, the team hasn’t decided on who is going to be the fifth starter, so it allows more time for that too.

    The Yankees and Red Sox will be playing against eachother seven times this April, by contrast, the Blue Jays aren’t scheduled to play New York in it’s first trial in this lunch period. But the Yankees play the Devil Rays and White Sox quite often, so they have that going for them. Boston will need series wins over the three big AL East threats, something I’m a bit doubtful of.

    In the AL Central, the five teams came out to have the five most difficult records in the American League. Minnesota plays the Tigers and Indians a combined twelve times in April, and that should do a lot to elevate their status. The Twins should win it in April, and you have to wonder, will Minnesota fold in this situation?

    Finally, the AL West. Texas is my vote for worst record after April, seeing as though the Kansas City Royals are the worst team they play. Anaheim should catch the division lead by May 1st, but ultimately, Jerry Seinfeld will do with his ending than the Angels. And that’s not saying a lot.

    May 1: NY, MIN, and ANA

    Baseball BeatMarch 17, 2004
    The East Isn't Least In The A.L.
    By Rich Lederer

    The All-Baseball roundtable series continues today with a preview of the American League East.

    Just as Christian Ruzich was afraid to annoint the Chicago Cubs champions of the N.L. Central, Alex Belth is trying to convince himself (and others) that the Red Sox are the team to beat in the A.L. East.

    Go to the All-Baseball.com home page to find out what Christian, Alex, and the rest of the gang--including Mike Carminati, Mark McClusky, Bryan Smith, Twins Fan Dan, Jon Weisman, and Peter White--have to say.

    WTNYMarch 16, 2004
    Digress
    By Bryan Smith

    First of all, let me start with a thank you. My site, the one here at All-Baseball, topped 10,000 visitors in it’s first month. This was largely due to the press from my top 50 prospect list, but hopefully I can keep this pace up regardless. I write here to be heard, and I can’t explain how great it is to have an audience.

    Speaking of that, thank you for everyone who started to check out the Hardball Times yesterday. We are very proud of the project, both visually and in content. This is a place you should be checking everyday, as there should many articles published each day. My two article a week schedule will make my post lightly (see today) two days a week, so please have patience with me. I’ll have five articles published each week, but some of them will be over at THT. My first is a preview on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who I actually found quite interesting when doing research. For information on the wildness triple crown, Rocco Baldelli’s future, and B.J. Upton’s comparisons, check out the preview.

    Also at THT today is Aaron Gleeman’s top 25 prospects, a day after publishing his 26-50. Gleeman is very high on his catchers, but with this group, rightfully so. He has two members of my top five way down, but I can’t understand Joe Blanton in the top 15. Gleeman does a great job, it’s obvious he’s done his research, so you should definitely go check that out.

    By publishing his list so late, Aaron was able to take into account the recent injury of Greg Miller. A top ten prospect on my list, the Dodger southpaw will likely be out this season, obviously injuring his future greatly. Peter Gammons notes that this brings back the high school pitchers debate, but it’s very easy to point at Cole Hamels as defense. Miller will be missed in this system, but Edwin Jackson is an ace and Joel Hanrahan is pretty underrated. Paul DePodesta plus $100 million can’t hurt either, so my prediction of the Dodgers being annual champions in about three years still stands.

    Eric Chavez signs a six-year, $66M deal with the Athletics. Dave Stewart did a nice job here, there aren’t many teams willing to give six years to a player anymore. Chavez is a fairly safe bet, although six years presents a long time for Beane to get screwed. Chavez is also one of the more platoonable players in the game, but will make $11M per year on his ability to hit right-handers. Eric is a great start for any team, and oh yeah, don’t they have some pitching in Oakland too?

    Also, scary news for Cubs fans...every member of All-Baseball predicts a Cubs NL Central title. Our fourth roundtable was published yesterday, and judging by the response we’ve received from the first three, we want to keep them coming. Comments on the All-Baseball homepage, this site, or The Hardball Times are more than welcomed, as I guarantee your voice can be heard. I’ll be writing more later this week, but enjoy what’s at your disposal now...

    Baseball BeatMarch 15, 2004
    Richard's Prior
    By Rich Lederer

    Some people in the baseball community have suggested that I may be stalking Jered Weaver. Truth of the matter, Weaver is stalking Mark Prior.

    If the former University of Southern California ace is the king of college pitchers as many have claimed, then let the record show that Weaver is on pace to dethrone him.

    The similarities are startling. Both were born and raised in Southern California. Jered hails from Simi Valley and Mark is from San Diego.

    Both come from athletic families. Jered's older brother, Jeff, is a pitcher with the Dodgers and his cousins, Jed and Dan, play football for the 49ers and the University of Oregon, respectively. Mark's father, Jerry, played football at Vanderbilt; his sister, Millie, played tennis at San Diego; and his brother, Jerry, played tennis at Villanova.

    Both pitchers are tall righthanders. Weaver is 6'6" and 200 pounds. Prior is 6'5" and 220 pounds. Both pitchers throw a fastball, curveball, and a change-up. Both pitchers have pinpoint control. And both pitchers have very impressive resumes.

    Mark Prior

  • Player of the Year
  • First Team All-American
  • Selected #2 in the 2001 Draft by the Chicago Cubs


    Jered Weaver

  • College Baseball Player of the Summer
  • First Team All-American
  • Potential #1 Pick in the 2004 Draft


    The following is a season-by-season comparison of Prior and Weaver.

    Freshman Seasons:

               IP     H    R   ER   BB   K     W-L
    Prior     82.1   107  56   42   23   71    4-8   
    Weaver    92.2    80  46   45   32   74    8-4
                 H/9    BB/9   K/9    K/BB   ERA
    Prior       11.7    2.5    7.8    3.1    4.59
    Weaver       7.8    3.1    7.2    2.3    4.37

    Prior earned 1999 Freshman All-American second team honors from Baseball America while pitching at Vanderbilt. Mark pitched a complete-game victory against West Virginia and had a season-high 10 strikeouts in seven innings against Mississippi.

    Weaver was honorable mention Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Jered struck out seven and walked two over seven shutout innings to eliminate Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA Regional.


    Sophomore Seasons:

               IP     H    R   ER   BB   K     W-L
    Prior     136.1  126  70   54   46   150   10-7   
    Weaver    133.1   87  35   29   20   144   14-4
                 H/9    BB/9   K/9    K/BB   ERA
    Prior        8.3    3.0    9.9    3.3    3.56
    Weaver       5.9    1.4    9.7    7.2    1.96

    Prior was named to the Pac-10 honorable mention list. He led the team in innings and strikeouts. Mark also pitched for the USA National Team that summer, going 3-2 with a 1.60 ERA in six starts.

    Weaver was named co-Big West Pitcher of the Year and was a first team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America. He ranked third nationally in wins, seventh in strikeouts, and 16th in ERA. Jered also ranked third in Runs Saved Above Average (adjusted for ballpark and competition) in Craig Burley's statistical evaluations.

    In addition, Weaver was named Baseball America's Player of the Summer. He had a record-low 0.38 ERA for Team USA and threw 45 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, not allowing a run until the Gold Medal loss to Cuba.


    Junior Seasons:

    Mark Prior's 2001 Game Logs (through 3/14/01):

    DATE       OPP               IP   H   R   ER   BB   K   W/L
    31-Jan     Santa Clara       1    1   0   0    1     2  N/A
    3-Feb      Louisville        5    3   0   0    0    10   W
    9-Feb      at LB State       7.1  4   2   2    1    10   W
    16-Feb     at UCLA           7    2   1   0    1    12  N/A
    23-Feb     Miss St           6    4   3   2    2     9   W
    3-Mar      at Houston        8    9   3   3    0    10   W
    9-Mar      at Stanford       7.1  8   2   2    1    13   L
    Totals                      41.2 31  11   9    6    66  4-1

    Jered Weaver's 2004 Game Logs (through 3/14/04):

    DATE       OPP               IP   H   R   ER   BB   K   W/L
    6-Feb      at California     7    3   0   0    0     6   W
    13-Feb     USC               7    2   1   1    1    14   W
    20-Feb     Baylor            7    6   1   1    1    10   W
    27-Feb     at Houston        7    3   1   1    1    10   W
    5-Mar      BYU               7.2  2   1   1    1    15   W
    12-Mar     UCLA at SD        8    1   0   0    1    15   W
    Totals                      43.2 17   4   4    5    70  6-0
                 H/9    BB/9   K/9    K/BB    ERA
    Prior        6.7    1.3    14.3   11.0    1.94
    Weaver       3.5    1.0    14.4   14.0    0.82

    Prior turned in one of the most dominating seasons in college baseball history, becoming only the second player to sweep every national player of the year award. He was a first team All-American and was also one of the five finalists for the Sullivan Award, only the fourth baseball player ever to reach that level. Mark was third in the nation in ERA (1.69) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.2).

    Weaver has been named the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week three times (and will likely receive a fourth honor for his eight-inning, one-hit, 15-strikeout masterpiece vs. UCLA last Friday). He has had five consecutive games of 10 or more Ks, including 15 twice. Jered leads the nation in strikeouts and wins, and is seventh in ERA according to Boydsworld.com.


    Summary

    The two pitchers had similar freshman seasons, the Long Beach State 49er eclipsed the USC Trojan in their sophomore campaigns, and Jered is on pace to equal or better Mark's outstanding junior year.

    Weaver, who still has his work cut out for him to match Prior over the full schedule, is expected to start 11 more games during the regular season and perhaps one or more in the playoffs.



    My advice to Prior:

    "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

    Satchell Paige, How to Keep Young
    Collier's, June 13, 1953

  • WTNYMarch 15, 2004
    Checking Back
    By Bryan Smith

    First of all, I’d like to start off today by making my big announcement...I have joined a cast of other writers to form The Hardball Times. Aaron Gleeman and Matthew Namee (Bill James’ assistant) are heading up the project, and we really feel it will be worth your time everyday.

    The site should be less analytically based than some sites, focusing more on the written word than the number. This fits into my style, and hopefully will appeal to the general baseball fan. We’ll throw at least three articles at readers on a daily basis, and the technical guys have done a great job with the layout. Comments are welcomed, and I hope you’ll be stopping there to see my work in the coming days.

    OK, now to your regularly scheduled Monday article...

    Spring Training sure flies by. After a November and December that fly by due to the Hot Stove, we fall into January. While signings like Ivan Rodriguez and Greg Maddux have made the late offseason interesting the last few years, every January I find myself counting down to Spring Training. And when it gets to Spring Training? I’m just counting down to the season.

    The exhibition games often go unreported, so it’s very difficult to keep up with the latest happenings, even surrounding your favorite team. I’ve gone through all the MLB team sites, Rotoworld, and a few other sources to bring you as much as I’ve heard on Spring Training 2004...

    In Contention

    If a team is serious about making a postseason run, Spring Training should be no more than a tune up. The team should already be somewhat decided, so managers can do more teaching and less evaluating. But there are some interesting stories going around the big boys that are worth keeping track of.

    First and foremost is your only $200M team, the New York Yankees. Steinbrenner can throw all the money he wants at this team, but health will always be a question mark. Jon Lieber’s groin is still being difficult, and it should sideline him for another two weeks. Probable fill-in Jorge DePaula is out with back injuries, and El Duque won’t be ready until May. The door looks to be flying open for Donovan Osborne, the ex-Cardinal pitcher that I didn’t think I would ever see again, much less with the league’s favorite.

    St. Louis doesn’t seem to be worrying about their pitching staff as much as I would like, as Cris Carpenter is very confident in himself. If Carpenter pitches effectively he could bring the Cardinals back into NL Central discussions, although I don’t anticipate that to happen. In other Cardinal news, the team let Steve Cox and Brent Butler go, as Tony La Russa figured there was no way they make the team. There is no word on the 1B/LF situation of the Cardinals, and they would be much smarter to go with John Gall than Kerry Robinson or So Taguchi.

    Cardinal rivals, my team, have had a little drama this season. Mark Prior’s injury seems to get a larger headline everyday, and it’s probable that Prior will miss his season opener in April. This, accompanied with the Mike Remlinger injury, is not a good sign for an organization that can’t remember the last time they won back-to-back seasons. Remlinger’s leftie role will likely be filled by Jimmy Anderson, the ex-Pirate that’s had a fantastic Spring thus far.

    Across town, the White Sox are narrowing down their rotation choices. Scott Schoenweis appears to have been given the fourth spot, leaving the last spot down to Dan Wright, Jason Grilli, or Neal Cotts. Ozzie Guillen eliminated Cotts recently, and Wright is said to be the heavy favorite. I’ve always thought Wright’s knucle-curve would work well in middle relief, but the White Sox simply don’t have enough arms. The fact that a team with Schoenweis and Wright at the back end of their rotation is talking about a division championship sure doesn’t speak well for the AL Central.

    The former World Championship Diamondbacks also have pitching concerns, and have begun eliminating names. Prospects Edgar Gonzalez and Mike Gosling weren’t given much of a chance at the last rotation spot, a battle between Steve Sparks, John Patterson, Andrew Good, and Casey Daigle. Daigle, who? Baseball Prospectus 2004 talks about how Arizona has bad minor league stadiums for pitchers, so maybe Daigle’s 4.59ERA has been deceiving us. That’s not likely though, and I expect Steve Sparks will be named to the position in a matter of days.

    Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies must alter two player’s careers before Spring Training is up, likely sending them to another organization. Amaury Telemaco, Bud Smith, and Dave Coggin are all out of options, and only one will make the back end of the bullpen. Put your money on Telemaco, the ex-Cub right-hander who seems to be remaking his forgotten career.

    Too Many Questions

    It’s March 15. It’s time to figure out the last few spots of the rotation, and managers should already have rough estimates of their Opening Day lineup. The teams that don’t? Well, that’s the type of ballclub headed into disaster. While stories about the Pirates or Devil Rays don’t normally interest me, their Spring Training drama normally beats out any team.

    Pittsburgh had high hopes for their 2B position this year, and are quickly being let down. Freddy Sanchez is hurt, and Bobby Hill hasn’t played a lot. Even a not-ready Hill is a better choice than Abraham Nunez, and Lloyd McClendon should just be willing to let Hill learn on the job.

    Speaking of open middle infield positions, the Brewers are having a fight in the middle infield. My choice would be Keith Ginter (a.k.a. Marcus Giles?) and Bill Hall, but the team seems happy with Junior Spivey and Craig Counsell. I can’t believe the Diamondback duo has yet to be dealt, but Ned Yost seems to be excited to hand the jobs to veterans. Hall has been fantastic in Spring Training thus far, but he’ll be going to the bench somewhere after this.

    Both the Bucs and Brewers are bad, but the Reds are going to give the team a run for their money. Anyways, it appears the Reds are close to naming their rotation, with Jimmy Haynes, Paul Wilson, Cory Lidle, Jose Acevedo, and Jesus Sanchez penciled into the rotation. I’m in disbelief that Brandon Claussen doesn’t have a spot, and equally as mystified that Paul Wilson still plays baseball.

    Wilson’s former team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, have been nailing down some rotation choices. Mark Hendrickson and Doug Waechtler are joining Victor Zambrano and Jeremi Gonzalez. Paul Abbott and Damian Moss are fighting out the last spot, and Piniella will likely give it to the man he’s more familiar with, Abbott. The team has done a good job with this, though many will argue Chad Gaudin and Dewon Brazelton should get spots. I disagree, let the two dominate AAA before exposing them to the harsh reality that is being a Devil Ray.

    Esteban Yan never did much in Tampa, but he’s seemingly turning his career around in Detroit. After a great Winter League season, Yan is jumping over Nate Robertson as the likely winner of the Tiger fifth starter race. Yan could very well pull a Rodrigo Lopez this year, but chances are he flames out horribly. Detroit will be bad this year, but 50 wins will sure be nice.

    Duh!

    Just to reiterate a few decisions, Darren Dreifort will formally be moving to the bullpen. The last spot is still between Edwin Jackson, Wilson Alvarez, and Jose Lima, but only Jackson has been pitching consistently through Spring Training. Jim Tracy has reiterated time and time again that Jackson will be in the rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a spot opens for Wilson Alvarez as well.

    Dustin Hermanson has all but won the Giants rotation race, and Darren Oliver is doing the same over in Florida. Both have been fantastic this Spring, but it shouldn’t mask the fact that both are terrible players. Larry Beinfest should be counting down the days to Burnett, or he should be on the phone landing some pitchers.

    Who’s on the Phone?

    If Darren Oliver doesn’t appeal to Florida fans, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has mentioned Juan Cruz as a possibility. The team has reportedly offered a mid-level shortstop prospect back to the Cubs, indicative on how far his stock has fallen. It makes so much more sense to rebuild both confidence and trade value in Des Moines, but I can’t say I trust Dusty Baker in this regard. Hang on a little while until Cruz, then attempt to make a comprable Hillenbrand for Kim deal.

    We’ve talked about Donovan Osborne earlier, but the Yankees are interested in Pirate right-hander Kris Benson. Like Ben Sheets, Benson has been on everyone’s mind since the 2000 Olympics, probably setting the bar too high. I haven’t seen Benson pitch since coming back from injury, so I have no first-hand reporting for you in that regard.

    Benson has vowed that he will be traded before the season, and Ken Griffey Jr. is dropping similar bombs in Cincinnati. I just can’t see the Reds getting rid of Griffey, the hometown product they were so elated with to acquire. Ken is owed a lot of money, and few teams can take on the responsibility that comes with owning Griffey’s will.

    Once Jerry Hairston returns from injury, what’s the market on how long it takes Brian Roberts to get dealt. 12 hours, 36 hours.

    That’s all for today, but be sure to check out the Hardball Times, a baby we’ve been nursing for a few months now.

    Baseball BeatMarch 13, 2004
    Six-and-Oh (My)
    By Rich Lederer

    Jered Weaver did not fail in his first test in a big league ballpark yesterday as he mowed down the UCLA Bruins, 3-0, in the Aztec Invitational at San Diego's new Petco Park. The 8th-ranked Long Beach State Dirtbags (12-4) have now beaten the Bruins (11-7) in eight of their last 11 meetings.

    Weaver (6-0) allowed one hit and struck out 15 for the second straight game. The All-American righthander has now recorded double-digits in Ks in each of his last five outings. He struck out the side in the first inning again (as well as the seventh) and whiffed eight of the nine Bruins in the order, including Brett McMillan and Matt Thayer--the third and fifth hitters--all three times.

    Of Weaver's career-high 120 pitches, an amazing 84 went for strikes (70%). The tall junior didn't show any signs of fatigue, retiring the final 10 batters he faced--eight via strikeouts. (Box Score)

    Weaver's Stat Line vs. UCLA:

                IP  H   R   ER  BB  K
    Weaver      8   1   0   0   1   15

    The potential number one draft pick has now given up no more than one run in each of his six contests and has allowed three or fewer hits in five of them. Opponents are "hitting" just .117 against him.

    Season Totals:

               IP     H    R   ER   BB   K    ERA    W-L
    Weaver     43.2   17   4   4    5    70   0.82   6-0

    Weaver made his pitch late Friday afternoon in front of Padres general manager Kevin Towers and scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton. The Padres have the first pick in this year's draft and are in a position to add Weaver to their corps of young, talented starting pitchers.


    Bill Gayton (L) and Kevin Towers (R)
    Photo credit: John Sandoval/MLB.com

    Gayton, a dead ringer for Terry Francona, was born in South Dakota, coincidentally the same state as the Red Sox manager. As a player, Gayton made it as high as A-ball in the White Sox organization. Dave Dombrowski, who was with the ChiSox at the time, hired him as a scout at the age of 22. Gayton, now in his fourth year with the Padres, has been in the scouting profession for more than 20 years.

    In an interview with Baseball Prospectus correspondent Craig Elsten last year, Gayton said the Padres "pay close attention to the Cape Cod League and Team USA statistics". If so, one has to believe the Padres are all over Weaver.

    Team USA Totals:

               IP   H    R   ER   BB    K    ERA    W-L
    Weaver     48   21   2   2    11    36   0.38   4-1

    Weaver was named Baseball America's Player of the Summer after hurling an unprecedented 45 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings for Team USA and fashioning a single-season record 0.38 ERA. In Weaver's last 91 2/3 innings pitched for Long Beach State and Team USA, he has allowed only 38 hits, 6 runs, and 16 walks, while striking out 106 batters en route to a 10-1 record and a 0.59 ERA.

    Gayton told David Hammel of the North County Times:

    (Weaver's) a pitcher. He changes speeds, mixes it up. He's fun to watch. He has the mound presence that you look for, along with confidence and the ability to get people out.

    Gayton, who was featured in a three-part series on mlb.com prior to the 2002 draft (Part I/Part II/Part III), told me after the game that Weaver was under consideration as the Padres #1 pick but said there was "still a lot of time between now and the draft".

    I asked Gayton if he thought Weaver could pitch in the majors in 2005, and he nodded "yes". However, he believes Weaver will be in no hurry to sign with or without Scott Boras acting as his agent due to the number of innings that he will have pitched at that point over the past year. As an example, Mark Prior, after being drafted second by the Chicago Cubs in the 2001 draft, waited until August 23 to sign and didn't pitch professionally at all that year. He was assigned to the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx of the AA Southern League at the beginning of the following season, then promoted to the Iowa Cubs of the AAA Pacific Coast League before making his major league debut on May 22, 2002--less than one year after the draft.

    Gayton and the Padres were unsuccessful signing Matt Harrington, another Boras client in 2001. Harrington had turned down a reported $4 million offer from the Colorado Rockies the previous year, switched agents from Tommy Tanzer to Boras and promptly turned down a reported $1.25 million major league contract. Harrington was last drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 24th round of the 2003 draft.

    In hindsight, the Rockies and Padres are lucky Harrington didn't take them up on their offers. Everybody makes mistakes. Even Weaver. Gayton brought up the fact that Jered "got away with some high pitches", probably referring to a high fastball that UCLA third baseman Brandon Averill pulled foul into the left field seats and a hanging curveball that catcher Chris Denove drove to left for a long out in back-to-back at bats in the third inning. Nonetheless, Gayton was impressed with Weaver hitting 94-mph on the speed gun in his eighth and final inning.

    Weaver's performance reminded me of a line made famous by John Lennon (fractured grammar and all) after The Beatles performed "Get Back" on the roof of Apple's headquarters in London.

    "I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition."

    Like The Beatles, you can rest assured that Weaver has more than "passed the audition".

    Monday's Entry: Jered Weaver vs. Mark Prior.

    WTNYMarch 12, 2004
    Note Friday
    By Bryan Smith

    First of all, let me again point you to our index here at All-Baseball.com. Christian Ruzich has already posted the three roundtable discussions our group has had, with at least four more coming in the near future. The behind-the-scenes talk at All-Baseball is enriching, and our roundtables are a way to bring this into the public. Adding our homepage to your daily All-Baseball stops would be a good idea as there is going to be content added regularly there. Any suggestions readers have about All-Baseball should land in a comment somewhere, as we are dedicated to creating one of the best baseball stops on the Internet.

    Yesterday, I mentioned the Joe Sheehan piece at Baseball Prospectus on Joe Mauer, as well as Aaron Gleeman’s rebuttal. Sheehan points to Mauer’s height, 6-4, as a reason to discredit Mauer’s future. He shows that only 28 catchers in the history of baseball have accumulated 200 career at-bats while being at Mauer’s height. The list includes no Hall of Famers, Tom Haller is the best, meaning Mauer is going to have to overcome some obstacles to reach stardom.

    Gleeman responds to Sheehan:

    It's an interesting point that Sheehan makes and certainly Mauer's height is worth looking at, but I just don't think it's all that significant. If we drop the magic cutoff number one inch - from 6'4" to 6'3" - we suddenly get a much bigger and better list of players.

    Aaron goes on to prove that 78 catchers have been 6’3” or taller, including seven players who have made the All-Star team at least five times. I agree with both writers here. Sheehan makes a good point to discredit Mauer, but Gleeman does a good job pointing out a flaw. My response would be to add on another qualification, the fact that Mauer bats left-handed. This is somewhat rare among catchers, and another attribute to seperate Mauer.

    In the history of baseball, only 22 catchers have had 1000 career at-bats while batting left-handed and being taller than 6’1”. Only one player on this list, Babe Phelps, had a career OPS above .800. Only six had 100 or more career home runs. Yikes. I ranked Mauer first overall on my prospect list, but I did debate going with Upton or Edwin Jackson.

    Sheehan’s article gave me motivation to write yesterday’s piece on Dontrelle Willis, in which I used history to determine Willis’ future. Willis was one of 14 southpaws in 80 years to have more than twelve wins at twenty-one years of age. The only other current player on that list was C.C. Sabathia. I decided to do some research on Sabathia, and found some very interesting results.

    Sabathia is one of eleven southpaws since 1900 to win thirty or more games before turning 23, while starting in less than 100 games. Sabathia actually ranks third on the list with 43, and I found some interesting names here. The top seven on this list: Fernando Valenzuela, Don Gullett, Sabathia, Chuck Stobbs, Noodles Hahn, Sam McDowell, and Hal Newhouser. One Hall of Famer (Newhouser), and two other greats in Fernando and Sam.

    Of the top seven, all of the players seemed to have a common link. Four of them were not playing professional baseball by their 33rd birthday, and the two exceptions (Valenzuela and Newhouser) were basically inept by then. Also, all of the players had their best years from about the ages 23-26, with little variation. The players seemed to peak early and exit early, something I’ll look for in Sabathia.

    In terms of size, only Sam McDowell (6-5), is close to Sabathia’s huge 6-7 frame. McDowell was a better pitcher at age 22 than Sabathia, but C.C. could follow McDowell’s career path: very good from 23-27, out by the age of 32. Like I did with Willis, I checked Sabathia’s PECOTA card, and I disagreed with it. PECOTA’s weighted mean has Sabathia’s ERA at 4.18, but he should be closer to his 75th percentile prediction of 3.34. I’m a buyer for C.C. in fantasy leagues this year, he could be a nice keeper choice for the next four or five seasons.

    On Monday, I wrote a piece on this year’s Major League draft. With my interest in college baseball reaching it’s career high, I was thrilled to read Craig Burley’s research on the topic. Yesterday Burley gave his top 50 pitchers from the 2003 season, including this top ten:

    1. Jeff Niemann- Rice
    2. John Hudgins (Texas Rangers)
    3. Jered Weaver- Long Beach State
    4. Tom Mastny (Toronto Blue Jays)
    5. Wade Townsend- Rice
    6. Abe Alvarez (Boston Red Sox)
    7. J.P. Howell- Texas
    8. Jason Windsor- Cal State Fullerton
    9. Philip Humber- Rice
    10. Jeremy Sowers- Vanderbilt

    This is a very interesting top ten, and does nothing to discredit drafting Weaver first overall. Niemann was so amazing last year, it’s such a shame that he’s injured this year. As for the hitters, Burley’s top ten was:

    1. Jeremy Cleveland (Texas Rangers)
    2. Michael Aubrey (Cleveland Indians)
    3. Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee Brewers)
    4. Ryan Roberts (Toronto Blue Jays)
    5. Brian Buscher (San Francisco Giants)
    6. Ricardo Nanita (Chicago White Sox)
    7. Stephen Drew- Florida State
    8. Tony Richie (Chicago Cubs)
    9. Tony McQuade (Chicago Cubs)
    10. Jonny Kaplan- Tulane

    Only two players are still in college on this list, the first of which being Stephen Drew. Burley proves that a top three of Weaver, Drew and Townsend is not only plausible, but sensible. Burley’s research is innovating and fascinating, and well worth your time. I hope to talk to Craig much more about this in the future, and I can’t wait to further apply it to the 2004 draft.

    Finally, in prospect related news, Greg Miller is going under the knife. Miller will be on the DL to start the season, and if serious damage is found during surgery, could miss up to one year. While I ripped Baseball Prospectus for ranking Miller in the 30s, don’t they look smarter than me now? Like always, I bow down before the men at BP.

    That’s all for now, have a good weekend...

    WTNYMarch 11, 2004
    Past...Future...Dontrelle
    By Bryan Smith

    One of my favorite baseball hobbies is looking into the past to tell us things about a player’s future. Joe Sheehan tried this on Baseball Prospectus yesterday, trying to discredit Joe Mauer based on his height. I am going to e-mail Joe my comments, but a great rebuttal on this argument is made by Aaron Gleeman today.

    Anyway, I’m going to look into the past to tell me about a 2003 breakout player, Dontrelle Willis. Dontrelle holds a spot in my heart since he’s an ex-Cub, traded away for Matt Clement and Good Ol’ Six Fingers. Willis came out of nowhere, and his 27 starts were very important in the Marlins quest for the Wild Card. Willis entered the picture in May, when injuries had already begun to decimate the team. It was Willis’ sensational stuff and huge media exposure that put the Marlins on the map, and turned the team in the right direction. Jack McKeon gets a lot of credit for what he did with this team, but Willis played a significant role as well.

    But like most breakout players, Willis has his skeptics. Dontrelle saw his ERA fall to 3.30 after a second half in which his earned run average was 4.60. He started to allow more home runs, walks, and hits, trends that scare away most fantasy owners. But the reason to hope with Willis is his age, since last year was only his age 21 season.

    Last year Dontrelle became the fourteenth southpaw in the last 80 years to have twelve or more wins while being twenty-one. The group, chronologically, with their ERA+:

    Curt Simmons- 1950- 120
    Mike McCormick- 1960- 129
    Wade Blasingame- 1965- 94
    Marcelino Lopez- 1965- 116
    Vida Blue- 1971- 183
    Pete Falcone- 1975- 91
    Frank Tanana- 1975- 136
    Tom Underwood- 1975- 90
    Britt Burns- 1980- 143
    Fernando Valenzuela- 1982- 121
    Jim Abbott- 1989- 97
    Steve Avery- 1991- 116
    C.C. Sabathia- 2002- 103
    Dontrelle Willis- 2003- 122

    Of the thirteen, eight players would go on to be All-Stars, which speaks very highly of Willis. But what I noticed was that most of the All-Stars would reach the Midsummer Classic early in their careers, and by the time they met their thirties they were all but forgotten. Blasingame, Vida Blue, Britt Burns, Marcelino Lopez, and Mike McCormick would all have a career year in ERA+ at 21. Steve Avery, Fernando Valenzuela and Frank Tanana would reach their career year in ERA+ before their 25th birthdays.

    Nine of the thirteen players in this study had an ERA+ better than 100 at 21 years of age. Seven of these players would see their career year before 25, and C.C. Sabathia could very well make an eighth player. Only Curt Simmons, the oldest player on this list, would have good years late, seeing his ERA+ reach it’s high both at 25 and 34 years of age.

    I decided to use the Sheehan technique, and compare body types for this study as well. In the end, Steve Avery and Dontrelle Willis turned out to be pretty similar: 6’4’’, just short of 200 pounds, capable of throwing pretty hard. Avery would have his career year at 23, but remained fairly consistent in both his 22 and 23 seasons. Avery then suffered a slow decline, and exited the Majors before his 30th birthday. Last year the Tigers gave Avery a chance in their bullpen, but I doubt we’ll hear Steve Avery’s name in the Major Leagues again.

    My guess here is that Willis will also join the group of people having their career year at 21. An ERA of 3.30 is going to be very difficult to beat, and I don’t see Willis doing it during his career. But expect him to keep the ERA under wraps for the next few years, before seemingly falling apart. The Marlins would be smart to use him as a reliever down the road, a notion that pitching coach Larry Rosenthal has already stated.

    Don’t be afraid to draft Willis this year, but know what you are getting into. His strikeout numbers will be pretty good, and his ERA is likely to drift to around the 3.80-4.00 territory.

    After doing this study, I consulted PECOTA, the Prospectus projection system. Jim Abbott is seen as Willis’ best comp, but Lopez, Burns, Avery, Tanana, and Underwood are all in the top 20. The system also sees a similar decline that I did, with the number of wins he contributes dropping each year. The weighted mean forecast has Willis’ ERA at 3.89, and his VORP staying at a modest 21.8. It seems like PECOTA and I see eye-to-eye here, while most of the time I blame the system for being too pessimistic. But I love it regardless, and if you either haven’t gotten the book or an on-line subscription yet, you’re crazy.

    Matt Clement is going to be a Cub for one more season, and Antonio Alfonseca’s tenure is already up, thank God. Clement will end up having three seasons with the Cubs, and should have his ERA+ be above 100 each time. If he does this, then no Cub fan is going to regret this trade, unless Willis really contributes in the bullpen at 27 years of age.

    WTNYMarch 10, 2004
    Quickly
    By Bryan Smith

    Computer issues yesterday caused me to miss my first post in a long time, and I missed it. Will Carroll wrote a nice article about the future of ‘blogging’ yesterday, and I highly recommend checking that out.

    Speaking of All-Baseball, do yourself a favor and check out our homepage. The A-B team of writers participated in an AL West roundtable discussion, and it’s really worth reading. Christian will adding roundtables about each of the divisions in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes open. Also, I will be in group 2 of Christian’s Cub Reporter roundtables, which will be debuting today. We really feel like All-Baseball is becoming a home, and I’m pleased to say that joining this group has made me a better writer.

    Over at the Batter’s Box, Craig Burley has done a study on college hitters, coming up with some amazing results. Stephen Drew, my #2 prediction, was top ten in 2003, and the overrated Jeff Larish was down in the twenties. This is an amazing study, even if a bit over my head.

    Injuries are starting to hit the Majors, with both Gary Sheffield and Phil Nevin expected to miss times due to injuries. Sheffield’s thumb will not need surgery, although don’t be shocked if this causes problems early on. The team doesn’t have a lot of right field insurance, although it would be fun to see Ruben Sierra trot out there one last time.

    Nevin’s health this season is very important if the Padres are going to make a run at this thing. Xavier Nady is a good temporary replacement, but over the long run he just can’t match Nevin’s performance. The Padres will hurt from this, and slowly they are losing my faith in the NL West.

    Sorry, that’s all I have for today. Expect a larger post tomorrow, but my baseball writing seems to be taking on more responsibilities each day...

    P.S. I got my Prospectus book over the weekend, and it's fantastic. While Jon and Peter both gave ten or eleven excerpts, I'll give one. This is what Prospectus had to say about Ron Coomer:

    "We were just as shocked to find out that Ron Coomer is still in baseball as you are right now."

    Baseball BeatMarch 09, 2004
    All-Baseball.com
    By Rich Lederer

    My colleagues and I have joined together to participate in a roundtable discussion previewing each of the six divisions.

    First up: The American League West.

    The consensus believes that the Oakland A's are still the team to beat out west. However, Jon Weisman doesn't see it that way. For more on this debate, go check out the All-Baseball.com home page.

    The series will run as follows:

  • A.L. West: Tuesday, March 9
  • N.L. West: Wednesday, March 10
  • A.L. Central: Thursday, March 11
  • N.L. Central: Monday, March 15
  • A.L. East: Wednesday, March 17
  • N.L. East: Thursday, March 18

    We hope you find these discussions relevant, interesting, and entertaining. If you agree or disagree with any of us, please feel free to chime in using the comments section below or over at All-Baseball.com.

  • Baseball BeatMarch 09, 2004
    Leave It To Weaver
    By Rich Lederer

    Long Beach State's Jered Weaver may not graduate with his class next year, but he will have earned high honors nonetheless.

    On Monday, Weaver was selected as the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week for the third time this season. He shares the weekly award with South Carolina's Billy Buckner (16 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings vs. Clemson), Kansas State's Jim Ripley (retired 18 of the first 19 Alabama batters, including 10 by strikeout), and Mississippi's Stephen Head (reached base 16 consecutive plate appearances).

    By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that Buckner allowed a ground ball to roll between his legs.

    WTNYMarch 08, 2004
    My First Draft
    By Bryan Smith

    I’m going to second the All-Baseball excitement about the upcoming amateur Major League draft. Three times this season my colleague, Rich Lederer, has detailed reports on the starts of young phenom Jered Weaver. Jeff’s younger brother is one of many exciting players in this year’s draft, and a name you should expect to be hearing quite often in the coming months. First let me point you to this thread on Baseball Primer, where my thoughts started and a place I’ll quote from often.

    The Major League draft is the least popular draft of the four major sports, and the number one example of Major League Baseball’s marketing problems. Bud Selig should sell the rights to the first five rounds of the draft to ESPN, gather all the GMs in one hotel, and make a scene of the event. Fans will recognize kids from the draft and are more apt to follow their performance in the minor leagues. Instead of this, Selig holds the draft over the phone, allowing fans to find out through Baseball America or Primer, sites which stall from the huge traffic they garner during those hours. Frustration.

    In 2001, the Minnesota Twins had the top pick in the amateur draft after finishing with the worst AL record in 2000. Carl Pohlad being the cheap owner that he is, ordered Terry Ryan to draft local high school product Joe Mauer with the top choice, mainly for signability reasons. This was great for the Chicago Cubs, who had the second overall pick, who chose Mark Prior, the greatest college pitcher ever. Prior was far and away the best player in the draft, but the Twins simply could not afford the $10M bonus that Prior received. After Prior was Dewon Brazelton to the Devil Rays, Gavin Floyd to the Phillies, and Mark Teixeira, the draft’s #2 prospect, to the Texas Rangers.

    Hypothetically, let’s say that trading picks had been allowed in the 2001 draft. The Texas Rangers, just off their ten-year deal with Alex Rodriguez, surely would have been interested in an arm like Prior. Tom Hicks would have ordered the team trade a fringe prospect, maybe Justin Duchscherer (hypothetically), and their #5 pick for the top choice. Texas would have chosen Prior first overall, leaving the Cubs to fill their long 3B void with Mark Teixeira. The pitching-crazed Devil Rays and Phillies still would have drafted Brazelton and Floyd, leaving Mauer to fall to the Twins in the fifth spot. Texas would have Prior and A-Rod, the two greatest young players in the Major Leagues, the Twins would still have Mauer, and the 2003 PCL Pitcher of the Year, Duchscherer. Rodriguez wouldn’t be a Yankee, the Rangers would be a contender, and Aramis Ramirez would be filling the new hole the Yankees have at third.

    But by not allowing picks to be traded, the above situation is merely hypothetical. OK, we’ve dealt with the problems on the Major League draft, but let’s talk about 2004. Here’s the first round for this year, including the supplemental round, thanks to Baseball America:

    1. Padres
    2. Tigers
    3. Mets
    4. Devil Rays
    5. Brewers
    6. Indians
    7. Reds
    8. Orioles
    9. Rockies
    10. Rangers
    11. Pirates
    12. Angels
    13. Expos
    14. Royals
    15. Diamondbacks
    16. Blue Jays
    17. Dodgers
    18. White Sox
    19. Cardinals
    20. Twins
    21. Phillies
    22. Twins
    23. Yankees
    24. Athletics
    25. Twins
    26. Athletics
    27. Marlins
    28. Dodgers
    29. Royals
    30. Rangers
    31. Athletics
    32. White Sox
    33. Yankees
    34. Twins
    35. Athletics
    36. Twins
    37. Royals
    38. Dodgers
    39. White Sox
    40. Blue Jays

    What jumps out here is that the Twins have five picks before the second round, the most since the Moneyball A’s of 2002. Speaking of Oakland, they are have four choices in the top 40, thanks to the Keith Foulke and Miguel Tejada signings. This is why offering free agents arbitration helps. We know Oakland, thanks to Michael Lewis, is college crazy, and are unlikely to draft a high schooler anywhere near the first round. With the A’s recent success, Beane’s friends and assistants are applying his theories in other places.

    Paul DePodesta, the computer-nerd, will likely be using his hard drive come draft day this year. Do not expect the Dodgers to draft a high schooler anytime soon. J.P. Riccardi has drafted college middle infielders Russ Adams and Aaron Hill in his two drafts, and would rather eat his money than spend it on a high school player. Grady Fuson, formerly the A’s scouting director, has a similar job with the Texas Rangers. Despite taking a high school pitcher last year, the team has stated their preference on college-heavy drafting. Theo Epstein and Mark Shapiro, another pair of young GMs will also choose collegiate players with their choices. Finally, in the last 3 drafts, both Pittsburgh and San Diego have chosen college players with each of their first round picks. Coincidence? Not likely.

    Baltimore and San Francisco seem to have the most obscure philosophies on draft day. The Orioles drafted a Junior College player last year, a Canadian high school pitcher in 2002, and a Cumberland University utility player in 2001. San Francisco debuted an interesting technique this year, giving up their first round choice for Michael Tucker, when they could have waited only 24 hours to keep their pick. It seems Brian Sabean feels first-round picks are too volatile to spend millions of dollars on, by far the most interesting take on the draft among all 30 teams.

    What about the teams who prefer high school players? In the last three years, Minnesota, Kansas City, Atlanta, Florida, and Seattle have chosen prep 18-year-olds with their first round pick each season. Atlanta has been drafting high school players, mostly from Georgia for years, and that seems to be going well. The Mets have chosen high school players with their last two choices, drafting Notre Dame right-hander Aaron Heilman in 2001. New York uses their dollars wisely, drafting players who drop for signability reasons each year. Why do players even sign with Boras as amateurs anymore?

    Jim Duquette likely won’t have that problem this season, as the Mets disastrous 2003 performance has landed them the third choice in the draft. Sitting in front of them is Kevin Towers of San Diego, and the lowly Detroit Tigers in the second spot. In my opinion, twelve players have separated themselves from the pack, and with help from BA, here’s a synopsis on each:

    - Nick Adenhart (RHP) Williamsport HS: This season’s Jeffrey Allison, Adenhart is far and away the best high school pitcher in the draft. If he doesn’t sign with Boras he’s guaranteed to be in the top ten, and a good year could get him in the top 5. He’ll likely post cartoon statistics like Allison did last year, and his commitment to North Carolina is laughable.

    - Matt Bush (SS) Mission Bay HS: Will battle with Golson (below) for best high school hitter this season. Bush, sometimes a pitcher, has a great arm at shortstop and a power bat. Tony Gwynn is trying to tempt him to go to San Diego State, but a couple million dollars can change a kid’s mind.

    - Stephen Drew (SS) Florida State University: He’s got some Major League pedigree, and if the season ended today, he’d be a lock for Hitter of the Year. The shortstop is hitting .398, with an insane 1.226OPS. His 19/7 BB/K ratio is sensational, and no other player on this list can match his four home runs. Drew reminds me of Nomar Garciaparra, who played at fellow ACC school Georgia Tech.

    - Greg Golson (OF) John Connally HS: Golson, more than any other player on this list, will be touted as a five-tools player. He’s faster than any other player on this list, and Baseball America calls him a great defender in centerfield. It’s possible the power will never be more than gap power, but he could make one helluva leadoff hitter one day.

    - Philip Humber (RHP) Rice University: Coming into this season, Humber was considered the worst prospect of the Rice trio. But so far in his first 14.1 innings, Humber has an ERA of zero, and twenty-three strikeouts. Humber was formerly the Texas High School Player of the Year, and an Olympic standout in 2002. His stock is climbing, and despite what I said in the Primer thread, he’s top ten material.

    - Jeff Larish (1B) Arizona State University: Larish was a second team All-American after a sensational Sophomore year, and was Street and Smith’s Preseason Player of the Year. But, things have stalled for the powerful first basemen who was once said to have the best college bat since Teixeira. His .412SLG is fifth for ASU regulars, but projectability will keep Larish in the top 15.

    - Jeff Niemann (RHP) Rice University: It seems like things are looking worse in every start. Niemann, who in this Lederer piece was in consideration for the top choice, has struggled coming off minor elbow surgery after the championship. Niemann is 6-9, and once threw in the high 90s, but Bill Meyn from the Primer thread sat behind scouts clocking him in the high 80s Saturday. After only one strikeout in six innings in his last outing, Niemann has just fourteen in 22.1 innings this year. There’s a chance he could be this year’s Marc Cornell or Bobby Brownlie, a rumored #1 who is forced to go to college his Senior year after arm troubles.

    - Justin Orenduff (RHP) Virginia Commonwealth University: Named to Baseball America’s second team Preseason All-America team after a Sophomore season that he struck out 120 men in 95 innings. The 6-4 right-hander is 1-1, 2.35ERA this year, with 27Ks in 23IP. Teams are often intrigued by pitchers from small-town schools (see Brazelton), so Orenduff could be an inexpensive top ten choice.

    - Jeremy Sowers (LHP) Vanderbilt University: Are you also hearing the Sowers at number one rumors? Don’t believe them, but the soft-throwing southpaw will definitely land in the top ten. At 6-1, Sowers may only seldomly touch 90, but he’s struck out 23 in 21 innings this year. Sowers has also only walked two, so the team that drafts him could see Jeremy by 2005. Sowers was chosen by the Reds out of high school, and it’s possible they’ll have the chance to draft him again.

    - Wade Townsend (RHP) Rice University: The Rice workhorse, Townsend is second on any Player of the Year ballot behind Mr. Weaver. In 30 innings this year Wade has a WHIP under 1.00, a K/9 at 12, and an ERA south of 2.00. He’ll produce low to mid-90s heat, but is an injury concern after being worked in every game this year. Townsend should be drafted before his other Owl teammates, and will be in the Majors come 2006.

    - Justin Verlander (RHP) Old Dominion University: Brent in the Primer thread said Verlander would win a radar gun contest, and he’s right. Baseball America says Verlander pitches at 94-96mph, and says on some boards he’s number one.

    - Jered Weaver (RHP) Long Beach State University: Yes people, Rich has a reason to be obsessed. While Lederer has brought his BYU, Baylor and USC starts to life, Weaver’s dominance can’t be fully documented. Weaver is 5-0 this year, striking out 55 men in 35.2 innings, allowing only four runs. He’ll be pitching in the Padres new PETCO park this weekend, so Towers will be able to scout the 6-6 right-hander in his backyard. All-American, Player of the Year, first overall choice...book it.

    I’ll close today with a mock top ten:

    1. Padres- Jered Weaver
    2. Tigers- Stephen Drew
    3. Mets- Wade Townsend
    4. Devil Rays- Justin Verlander
    5. Brewers- Nick Adenhart
    6. Indians- Jeremy Sowers
    7. Reds- Justin Orenduff
    8. Orioles- Matt Bush
    9. Rockies- Greg Golson
    10. Rangers- Philip Humber

    If anyone has seen a college player worth noting, drop a scouting report in the comment box, we could get a Tangotiger-like project going...

    Baseball BeatMarch 06, 2004
    Taking the Fifth
    By Rich Lederer

    All-American Jered Weaver won his fifth start of the year last night vs. Brigham Young University in another dominating performance. Dream Weaver struck out the first 10 batters for the second time this season en route to a new career-high total of 15 as the seventh-ranked Long Beach State 49ers (11-3) defeated visiting BYU (4-15), 3-1.

    The tall righthander retired the first 17 Cougars before allowing a base runner on a fluke single that 99 times out of 100 would have resulted in an out. BYU second baseman Wade Vest hit a high pop fly 20 feet down the first base line. The ball landed about a foot in foul territory untouched by three 49ers, then trickled fair for what was ruled as a base hit.

    Weaver proceeded to hurl 7 2/3 innings, giving up one run on two hits and one walk. The only other hit the junior allowed was a double in the eighth inning to first baseman Tim Law, the grandson of former Pirate All-Star pitcher Vern Law and the son of the BYU coach and ex-major league infielder Vance Law. Weaver had double-digit strikeouts for the fourth-straight contest. He is now 5-0 on the season with a 1.01 ERA. (Box Score)

    Season Totals:

               IP     H    R   ER   BB   K    ERA    W-L
    Weaver     35.2   16   4   4    4    55   1.01   5-0

    Weaver is the early favorite for The Roger Clemens Pitcher of the Year Award and among 18 players listed on Baseball America's College Player of the Year Watch List.

    Logan White, scouting director for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was one of more than a dozen talent evaluators in attendance. White and area Dodger scout Bobby Darwin sat directly behind me. Darwin, who was signed by the Los Angeles Angels in 1962 as a "bonus baby" out of L.A. Jordan HS, pitched one game in the big leagues that season as a 19-year-old. He then bounced around the Angels, Orioles, and Dodgers farm systems for the remainder of the 1960s before the pitcher-turned-outfielder was traded to the Minnesota Twins, where he placed in the top seven in HR and RBI in 1972 and 1974.

    The general consensus is rapidly coming to the conclusion that Weaver will be among the first players drafted this June. Based on last year's standings (and alternating from the worst record in the N.L. to the worst record in the A.L.), the top six draft picks belong to the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cleveland Indians.

    *************************

    Bonus coverage

    The following is a pitch-by-pitch recap of Weaver's performance.

    Top of the first:

  • Leadoff hitter
    92 mph fastball, fouled back (0-1)
    90 mph fastball, called strike (0-2)
    93 mph fastball, ball inside (1-2)
    93 mph fastball, strike three swinging (one out)

  • Second hitter
    curveball, away (1-0)
    change, strike swinging (1-1)
    curve, down (2-1)
    92 mph fastball, swung on and missed (2-2)
    78 mph curve, strike three swinging (two outs)

  • Third hitter
    fouled back (0-1)
    curve, strike looking (0-2)
    93 mph fastball, strike three looking (three up, three down...all by strikeouts)

    12 pitches (9 strikes/3 balls)

    Top of the second:

  • Fourth hitter
    89 mph fastball, high (1-0)
    89 mph fastball, fouled off (1-1)
    fastball, called strike (1-2)
    76 mph off speed curve, strike three swinging (one out)

  • Fifth hitter
    88 mph fastball, away (1-0)
    88 mph fastball, called strike on the inside corner (1-1)
    fastball, inside (2-1)
    92 mph fastball, away (3-1)
    93 mph fastball, called strike (3-2)
    87 mph slider, strike three swinging (two outs)

  • Sixth hitter
    off speed breaking ball, called strike (0-1)
    91 mph fastball, away (1-1)
    76 mph off speed curve, ball (2-1)
    fastball, called strike (2-2)
    92 mph fastball, called strike three (three up, three down...all by strikeouts)

    15 pitches (9 strikes/6 balls)

    Top of the third:

  • Seventh hitter
    fastball, outside (1-0)
    fastball, low (2-0)
    89 mph high fastball, chased and missed (2-1)
    87 mph, away (3-1)
    90 mph fastball, strike swinging (3-2)
    91 mph, called strike three (one out)

  • Eighth hitter
    91 mph fastball, strike swinging (0-1)
    92 mph fastball, called strike on the outside corner (0-2)
    78 mph curve, strike three swinging (two outs)

  • Ninth hitter
    89 mph fastball, high (1-0)
    76 mph off speed curve, called strike (1-1)
    78 mph curve, low and away (2-1)
    fastball, called strike on the outside corner (2-2)
    73 mph slow curve, strike three swinging (three up, three down...all by strikeouts)

    14 pitches (9 strikes/5 balls)

    Nine up, nine down...all by strikeouts

    Top of the fourth:

  • Top of the order
    81 mph curve, fouled back (0-1)
    86 mph slider, strike swinging (0-2)
    84 mph slider, fouled off (still 0-2)
    92 mph fastball, high (1-2)
    breaking ball, low and inside (2-2)
    off speed, foul tipped and held, strike three (one out)

    Ten strikeouts in a row

  • Second hitter
    70 mph change, outside (1-0)
    change, called strike (1-1)
    75 mph off speed curve, fouled out to the catcher (two outs)

  • Third hitter
    91 mph fastball, down (1-0)
    91 mph fastball, swung and tipped (1-1)
    78 mph curve, called strike (1-2)
    fastball, fly out to right field (three up, three down)

    13 pitches (9 strikes/4 balls)

    Perfect game through four

    Top of the fifth:

  • Cleanup hitter
    (no access to radar gun)
    curve, called strike (0-1)
    fastball, strike swinging (0-2)
    fastball, just inside (1-2)
    fastball, fouled off (still 1-2)
    curve, line drive to the first baseman (one out)

  • Fifth hitter
    fastball, ball (1-0)
    off speed curve, strike swinging (1-1)
    fastball, fouled back (1-2)
    slider, fly out to right field--diving catch (two outs)

  • Sixth hitter
    off speed, called strike (0-1)
    fastball, swung and missed (0-2)
    fastball, called strike three (three up, three down)

    12 pitches (10 strikes/2 balls)

    Perfect game through five

    Top of the sixth:

  • Bottom of the order
    curve, called strike (0-1)
    fastball, away (1-1)
    change, swinging strike (1-2)
    slider, just inside (2-2)
    fastball, strike three swinging (one out)

  • Eighth hitter
    fastball, foul out to first baseman (two outs)

  • Ninth hitter
    curve, strike on the outside corner (0-1)
    slider, high popup that falls untouched along the first base line for a single

  • Leadoff hitter
    ball (1-0)
    strike swinging (1-1)...runner steals second
    off speed, strike swinging (1-2)
    fastball, fouled off to the left side (still 1-2)
    fastball, fly out to left field (side retired with one runner left on base)

    13 pitches (10 strikes/3 balls)

    One-hit shutout through six

    Top of the seventh:

  • Second hitter
    fastball, fouled off to the left side (0-1)
    89 mph fastball, inside (1-1)
    off speed, fly out to left field (one out)

  • Third hitter
    fastball, high (1-0)
    fastball, called strike (1-1)
    curve, called strike (1-2)
    slider in the dirt (2-2)
    curve, fouled weakly (still 2-2)
    outside (3-2)
    fastball, strike three swinging (two outs)

  • Fourth hitter
    fastball, pop out to shortstop (three up, three down)

    11 pitches (7 strikes/4 balls)

    One-hit shutout through seven

    Top of the eighth:

  • Fifth hitter
    ball (1-0)
    ball (2-0)
    fouled off (2-1)
    ball outside (3-1)
    fastball, just missed outside...base on balls

  • Sixth hitter
    changeup, called strike (0-1)
    pick-off attempt
    88 mph fastball, swinging strike (0-2)
    90 mph fastball, called strike three (one out)

  • Seventh hitter
    pick-off attempt
    pitchout (1-0)
    pick-off attempt
    fastball, strike (1-1)
    fastball, called strike (1-2)
    missed inside (2-2)
    pick-off attempt
    double to center field, scoring the runner from first (L.B. State 3, BYU 1)

  • Eighth hitter
    fastball, called strike (0-1)
    curve, called strike (0-2)
    sidearm fastball, away (1-2)
    fastball, strike three swinging (two outs)

    17 pitches (10 strikes, 7 balls)

    Neil Jamison relieved Weaver in the eighth with two outs and a runner on second. The Long Beach State bullpen ace retired the last four Cougars for his sixth save of the year.

    Weaver threw 108 total pitches (officially), including 74 strikes and 34 balls. Of the 23 outs, 15 were recorded via strikeouts, eight through the air, and none on the ground.

    *************************

    Next up for Weaver: The UCLA Bruins on Friday, March 12 @ 3:00 p.m. at Petco Park in San Diego State's Aztec Invitational. I will be there to bring you the coverage.

  • WTNYMarch 05, 2004
    Break Out! Version 3
    By Bryan Smith

    In the last couple of days, I’ve detailed my thoughts on potential breakout hitters and pitchers. Since I’m becoming a fan of prospect hunting more everyday, I will spend today on potential breakout prospects. Also, I’ll likely be unable to post anything Monday morning due to technical issues, so look for a short bullet-point piece midday on Monday.

    Predicting what prospects will do, especially those not yet in the spotlight is extremely difficult, and if one of these thirty players becomes a star, I did a good job. Here is my one breakout choice from the first 15 teams in my new Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

    ARIZONA: Jared Doyle (LHP): Granted, successful college pitchers have no place in the Midwest League. Joe Blanton tore through the league as a University of Kentucky graduate, but Doyle, an ex-James Madison pitcher did well too. Doyle’s strikeout numbers were a bit down, but he sounds like he’s a very hot and cold player with three above average pitches. Doyle is pretty small, but still generates low-90s heat. The Diamondbacks should challenge Doyle by sending him to the Texas League.

    ATLANTA: Jake Stevens (LHP): In the third round of last June’s draft, the Braves made a typical choice. A left-handed Southern starter with a good body and good stuff. Like Dan Meyer and Marty McBride before him, Stevens already possesses two good pitches, and a third is on the way. The Braves do great work with needy young starters, and I expect the same from Stevens this year.

    BALTIMORE: Lorenzo Scott (OF): Not many prospects have plate discipline like Scott in their first few months of professional baseball, as the outfielder’s OBP topped .440 in short-season baseball. Lorenzo didn’t play a lot of baseball at Ball State University, but seems to be making up for that quickly. He didn’t hit a home run in his first tour, just shy of 120AB, but he did have twelve extra-base hits. There is reason to keep an eye on Scott, as the next Jeremy Reed could come from anywhere.

    BOSTON: Abe Alvarez (LHP): For some reason, I trust Dirtbags. Long Beach State has a fine baseball pedigree, producing talent ranging from Jason Giambi to Jered Weaver. Lost in the Weaver hype last year was Abe Alvarez, the southpaw that Theo spent his first ever second-round pick on. Alvarez lacks the ‘stuff’ that scouts love, but he always gets the job done. The New York-Pennsylvania league was a joke, as Alvarez didn’t allow a run in nineteen innings. The team will likely push Alvarez, who could end up in AA this season.

    CHICAGO: Bobby Brownlie (RHP): Already somewhat of a prospect, I am under the belief that Brownlie is ready to explode. Had it not been for arm fatigueness, Brownlie was a lock for a top five pick, instead dropping more than twenty choices to the Chicago Cubs. Brownlie has one of the better curveballs in the minor leagues, and also changes speeds pretty well. He’s an injury concern, but the Cubs gave him the last month of the season off, he’d been playing for eight months straight. Brownlie could catapult threw Cubs’ rankings this year, don’t be surprised if he ends up #1 next year.

    WHITE SOX: Antoin Gray (2B): Rickie Weeks got all the attention at Southern, but his infield mate Gray also competed for the national batting average title. Gray was stuck in the hot corner while at Southern, although the White Sox believe he is better suited for second base. It’s very possible that Gray gets some big power and becomes this year’s version of Josh Barfield, appearing on every prospect list available a year from now.

    CINCINNATI: Rainer Feliz (RHP): It might be early to call Feliz a prospect, but I’m always wary of a 6-5 right-hander coming from the Dominican Republic. Not surprisingly, Feliz could use some more weight, although his velocity is already in the low-90s. Feliz will be in the Midwest League this year, and could very well have a Merkin Valdez-like breakout. He really only needs to throw two pitches, a fastball and a filthy slider. Like Valdez, Felix should be a borderline top fifty prospect in a year’s time.

    CLEVELAND: Jason Cooper (OF): Not many people noticed it, but ex-Stanford outfielder Jason Cooper was sensational for Cleveland last year. His batting average about .300, and OBP above .380, and a sensational .542 slugging percentage. More than sixty extra-base hits. Cooper has big-time power, and at this point, projects to be the Indians left fielder of the future. Cooper will be in AA next year, where hopefully more people will recognize his power, and maybe he’ll get mentioned in prospect deabtes.

    COLORADO: Jeff Francis (LHP): I talked about Francis when I put him in my top 50, and I’ll talk about him again. He is a prospect right now, but underrated by many. I’m under the belief that Francis will be a top ten pitching prospect in baseball next year, he offered the whole package in high-A last year. Francis was 10-1, 1.06 in his last thirteen starts, and is a dominating force on the mound. His future isn’t that bright due to Coors Field, but I expect Francis to be larger than Chin-Hui Tsao at this time next year.

    DETROIT: Kenny Baugh (RHP): Once again, I could just be overrating Baugh based on his college...heavily renowned Rice University. Baugh was the ace there in his time, leading the nation in PAP, which ultimately led to arm problems. His ability to throw a good fastball will seperate him from being good and being bad, but Baugh could be huge for the Tigers as early as this season.

    FLORIDA: Jeff Allison (RHP): Yes, he’s in the Baseball America top 100. But have you seen this kid’s minor league numbers? Yikes. Allison was sensational last year, making only one pitfall, hiring Scott Boras. Kid’s don’t realize that signing with Boras lowers their draft stock, which then decreases their value Allison would have been a top five choice had it not been Boras, but hey, $252 million is an intimidating number. Not often will I call high schoolers to become stars, but Allison, like Kerry Wood before him, is a special exception.

    HOUSTON: Fernando Nieve (RHP): I hate praising Houston, but not many teams have been better at recognizing the small market for small pitchers. Nieve is not tall, but instead has sensational movement on his fastball. His peripheral numbers were much better than his ERA last season, and Nieve could break out big in high Class A this year.

    KANSAS CITY: Brian Bass (RHP): I have fallen victim to Dayn Perry’s research, as I devalue the strikeout category in my mind much more than it used to be. If his research proves true than Bass could be a good starter, as a low H/9, HR/9 and a good groundball ratio were some of Bass’ attributes last season. He will be 22 this season, so it’s important to really define himself with a good AA season. If he has a good year than Allain Baird will have no choice but to hand the right-hander a spot alongside Greinke in 2005.

    LOS ANGELES: Delwyn Young (2B): Screw Victor Diaz, has anyone seen Young’s 2003 statistics? Sixty extra-base hits including fifteen home runs, and an OBP above .380. Young struggles at defense, but the Dodgers are hoping that he’ll stick at the position, where he could become one of baseball’s better 2B prospects. Young has good contact skills, walks a little bit, and has big-time power. I’m excited how Vero Beach goes for Young, he could be a DePodesta favorite by next winter.

    That’s all for today, as usual, leave any comments you can...

    WTNYMarch 04, 2004
    Break Out! Part 2
    By Bryan Smith

    I’m not going to touch the steroids issue, instead letting some of my esteemed colleagues handle that. Instead, I want to point you to the All-Baseball homepage, where we have added a new ‘feature’ if you will. Christian has put up the top entries of the offseason for each of the All-Baseball sites, so I highly recommend walking down memory lane and reading some of our favorite posts, there’s a lot of good writing here.

    Today I’m going to handle my top 10 potential breakout pitchers, after handling the hitters yesterday.

    Adam Eaton- RHP- Padres- Last season was Eaton’s first full year back from arm surgery, and he was at times dazzling. I love pitchers that post sub-9.00 H/9 ratios, and barely ever draft anyone who succeeds that margin. I truly believe that control can be learned, and while Eaton’s 1.32WHIP is a little high, you should see a decline this year. While he won’t have the friendly confines of Qualcomm anymore, Eaton should take a big step forward this year. Do not be surprised if Eaton is the best Padre pitcher by year’s end.

    Jeff Weaver- RHP- Dodgers- In Peter Gammons latest, he quotes Gabe Kapler mentioning Jeff Weaver in the NL Cy Young race. Pat Jordan in an interview with Alex Belth last year said, “Weaver is a fucking wimp...Weaver has good stuff.” No one questions this kid’s pitching ability, instead they question his head. Jeff has always gotten mad after giving up a home run, a trend that should greatly decrease in Dodger Stadium this year. The pressure is off Weaver, he’s close to his brother, and in a huge stadium. An ERA under 4.00 is almost a certainty.

    Carl Pavano- RHP- Marlins- I know that Beckett and Penny left baseball fans breathless in the playoffs this year, but I was equally impressed by Carl Pavano. Seventeen hits in nineteen and one-third innings with fifteen strikeouts, 3 walks, and a 1.40ERA. Finally, the man once traded for Pedro starts to make himself worth something. Pavano is an imposing character at 6-5, 235, and his sinker is impressive. He really struggled outside of Pro Player Stadium, and I think his road ERA should go down from 5.51. My guess is that Pavano finishes with an ERA in the 4.00 range with about 150 strikeouts.

    Victor Zambrano- RHP- Devil Rays- Is Bryan really putting the 2003 walks leader on his breakout list? Yes. Zambrano’s H/9 was extremely low last year, keeping his WHIP under 1.50. I would like him a lot more if his K/9 was over seven, but hey, I’m reaching here. Zambrano has filthy stuff, but Piniella and company need to teach him to keep that under wraps. I'm also worried about the fact that Zambrano has been named Opening Day starter, which means he’ll be facing the opposing aces...a lot of losses. But if you need an innings-eater who could provide a low ERA, some strikeouts, and one helluva H/9, Zambrano is a good late-round pick.

    Jose Contreras- RHP- Yankees- There’s only one real worry about Contreras...health. El Duque has proven to us that Cuban pitchers aren’t the most durable of source, despite being great hurlers. The rest about Contreras I love, especially his stuff. I caught his September domination of the White Sox on TV and was wowed, saying Contreras had better stuff than any other Yankee. Contreras’ ERA while starting was only 2.34, his WHIP 0.99, and a K/9 right around 9.00. He’ll get very good run support, and will be facing pitchers at the back end of their rotations. He’s worth a mid-round pick for sure.

    Jeremy Affeldt- LHP- Royals- Watch Jeremy Affeldt, and you wouldn’t believe he’s not a superstar. His curve is one of the best in the Major Leagues, but like Josh Beckett before him, is really struggling with blisters. If this problem goes away, and Kansas City brass believes it has, Affeldt would turn into the best Royal starter immediately. He’s a real stud, and if he’s not starting he could get closing opportunities. After watching him in an interleague game against the Diamondbacks, I’m hooked.


    Matt Riley- LHP- Orioles- Definitely in the running for AL Rookie of the Year, Riley was listed even before hot prospect Greg Miller on the Baseball Prospectus top 50. An injury looked like it ruined Riley’s prospect status two years ago, but he’s back on the scene. Riley dominated the Eastern League last year, a K/9 over 9.00 and a WHIP under 1.10. His peripheral numbers looked good in AAA, although in both cases his ERA wasn’t that great. I’m not fond on the thought of drafting rookies, but Riley could rack up strikeouts in the Baltimore rotation this year, keep an eye on him.

    Jake Peavy- RHP- Padres- This seems to be a pretty consensus choice around the Internet. Peavy is another player that will have to learn control to take it to the next level, but he also has one either monumental problem: he gives up home runs. Last year Peavy allowed 33 home runs, and this was with half his games being in Qualcomm Stadium. That fallback option is gone this year, and Peavy will have to learn to keep his stuff down. I love the batting average against and K/9 though, and more often than not, that will indicate a player about to fly through the roof.

    Cliff Lee- LHP- Indians- Another example of me being mystified in person, watching one of Lee’s September starts caught me by surprise. I had listened to Gammons call Lee the key to the Colon trade, but never really believed it. Well that is until now. Lee handled his 50+ Major League inning trial very well, and is one of the few locks for the Indians’ rotation this year. He tired a bit in September, seeing his BB rate jump extremely high. That shouldn’t happen this year, Lee will be able to keep the walks to a minimum. It’s too bad he doesn’t qualify as a prospect anymore, or he’d be high in the running for Rookie of the Year.

    Oliver Perez- LHP- Pittsburgh Pirates- I’ll never forget reading a Barry Bonds quote calling Oliver Perez one of the best young left-handers he’s seen in awhile. When the greatest hitter in the game says something like that, it sticks with you. Perez was the key to the Brian Giles trade, and will be the Pirates third starter this season. His K/9 was above 10.00 last year, which should leave you drooling. Twenty-two home runs in less than 130 innings is WAY too many, but a majority of those came in a very rusty April. Watching Perez in Spring Training will be key, because there will be no room for him on your fantasy team with another 8.00 April ERA.

    That’s my wrap-up of pitching breakout players. Leave your suggestions in the comments.

    For now, and for what could be a daily occurrence on my site, I’m going to look at the Spring Training box scores, and specifically how things are going for prospects. Yesterday was the first head-to-head game of the year, which should be celebrated as a holiday. For play-by-play analysis I’ll turn it to Aaron Gleeman, but this is how the prospects did yesterday:

    - First of all, big props to James Loney. Three for three, seven total bases, one home run. He struggled with a wrist injury last year, but this is a nice way to tell his critics that his problem is long gone. Loney has no chance to make the team, but hey, maybe he could be the 2004 version of Miguel Cabrera?
    - Also in that game was Jeremy Griffiths, the Mets pitcher who didn’t suffer a fate so good. In a battle with Aaron Heilman and Scott Erickson for the last rotation spot, Griffiths planted himself in last by being charged with six earned runs in one-third of an inning. Not a great way to impress the new pitching coach Jeremy.
    - Not much to report in Atlanta’s game against University of Georgia. Adam LaRoche had two hits, Brett Evert threw two nice innings, J.D. Drew went yard.
    - Bobby Hill going yard for Pittsburgh? Great to see, especially since Freddy Sanchez recently got injured. If Hill has a good spring he’ll start the season where he should have been a year ago, on a Major League roster.
    - The Marlins almost lost to a college team. Sigh.

    WTNYMarch 03, 2004
    Break Out!
    By Bryan Smith

    I have fear that this entry will leave me a little exposed. See I’m in two fantasy leagues, and stating my breakout picks before a draft might be stupid. But I’ve received requests for breakout choices, and for that reason I will respond. Some of these choices I’m much more confident with than others, but building a list of twenty potential breakout players is not easy. I’m not going to find the next Podsednik here, but drafting a player like that would be stupid anyway.

    Today...the Hitters

    Brad Wilkerson- OF- Montreal- This is assuming a couple of things. I’m hoping Frank Robinson can realize that Wilkerson is not built for the leadoff role, and is not built for centerfield. Being in those two spots could potentially decrease offensive numbers, as it’s more added stress for the player. Wilkerson is one of the bright young hitters in the game, mixing fine on-base skills with developing power. He’s not very far from thirty home runs, a goal I see him accomplishing in the next two seasons. A fantastic low round selection, I’d hate to miss out on a big Wilkerson 2004.

    Aaron Miles- 2B- Colorado- Second base, 27, Coors Field. Southern League MVP, International League Rookie of the Year. Throw those five numbers together and what do you have? A fine sleeper choice in the NL West. Miles is a must for the Rockie second base job, although don’t be suprised if Clint Hurdle is awed by Damian Jackson. Miles is good for an OBP of about .350, forty extra base hits (primarily doubles), and about ten steals. OBP and XBH leagues will value him higher than the traditional 5x5 league, but he’s worth a late round selection in either instance.

    Josh Phelps- DH- Toronto- I’ve never been a big believer in curses (I’m a Cubs fan), so I just can’t buy the Baseball Prospectus cover curse. Phelps will turn 26 in May, and his OPS topped .900 in the second half. He could rake the ball in the minor leagues, and that should start to translate very soon. I once predicted 40 home runs, and while I won’t back down from my prediction, it should be more like 30 this year. It’s too bad Phelps isn’t qualifying at catcher anymore, otherwise he’d be owned in 100% of fantasy leagues. As it stands, his DH position won’t do much, but I think you could do worse than thirty homers in your utility role, don’t you?

    Joe Crede- 3B- White Sox- If you can’t tell, I’m a big believer in two things: minor league numbers and second half performance. Crede has numerous MVP trophies from his days in the minor leagues, and I expect a big bounce back from his Sophomore slump this year. In fact, Crede is a much better bet to make it back to form than 1B Paul Konerko. After a disastrous .625OPS in the first half last year, Crede was .892 the rest of the way. He had ten more extra-base hits in the second half, and I would expect something like .280-25-90 this year, so think about him as a corner infielder for sure.

    Milton Bradley- OF- Cleveland- I understand the argument that Bradley’s coming out party was in 2003, but I think that he’ll only grow from his performance. Injuries and speeding violations forced him to not eclipse the 400AB mark, so his fantasy numbers were reasonably low. But remember, he stole 17 bases last year, and some of his 34 doubles should start to head over the wall. Bradley is the opposite of most of my selections (worse 2nd half, sketchy minor league career), but he’s too talented to be forgotten. A 20/20 year is always valuable, and Bradley will be one of the key reasons the Indians make a hard run at third place.

    Travis Hafner- 1B- Cleveland- I’ll be honest. In trying to pick an unlikely Rookie of the Year winner a year ago, I chose Hafner. He was coming off a fantastic 2002 minor league season, and was basically handed a Major League job. Hafner had an absolutely dreadful first half (.229/.289/.423), and an even worse April (.167/.244/.359). Yet despite all this, his OPS managed to top .800. Hafner reminds me a lot of Aubrey Huff, minus the athleticism. Six hundred plate appearances means about thirty home runs, yet Hafner may struggle to be trusted with an every day job due to his nasty platoon splits: .629OPS vs. LH.

    Jason Phillips- C/1B- Mets- There’s not a considerable amount of power here, but Phillips has talent. He’s Paul Lo Duca-ish, and should post high averages with fairly low home run totals. He’s young, so the yearly HR totals may rise, but I doubt Phillips will ever top 25. Instead, he’ll post batting averages that are consistently at .300, well, until Justin Huber comes and steals his everyday job. Phillips was drastically better in Shea last season, a problem that sometimes happens to rookies. That should change in 2004, and Phillips’ numbers (at catcher!) should start to rise.

    Eric Hinske- 3B- Toronto- Is it possible to call an ex-Rookie of the Year a sleeper? I really do believe Hinske belongs on this list, simply because he’s been forgotten in a fairly deep third base class. I did think Hinske’s home run total was a little high his rookie season, but I didn’t think it would be halved. Some of those forty-five doubles will be a little longer this season, boosting Hinske’s HR number back to about 20. He has to be better than a .240 hitter, and should regress into the .270s or .280s this year. He remains one of the best basestealers in the game today, although Carlos Tosca limits how much Hinske is allowed to run. Just how great is a 15/15 season? Ehh...I’d take Crede first.

    Eric Munson- 3B- Detroit- If your league counts OBP, skip this guy. If you’re not in an AL-only league, skip this guy. But besides that, be introduced to Eric Munson. In only ninety-nine games last year Munson hit eighteen home runs, a testament to his 500-foot power. He remains pretty weak to southpaws, but Alan Trammell should give the kid a chance. If I was in an AL-only league, Munson would be a good choice, more worthy of a draft choice than even Melvin Mora (when ignoring the SS eligibility factor).

    Keith Ginter- 2B- Milwaukee- This kid reminds me more and more of Marcus Giles every time I look at him. He’s in a competition with Junior Spivey right now, but just like the Oriole 2B twins, they should be split up before Opening Day. Ginter hit 14 home runs in limited action last year, and is a perfect selection in OBP leagues. Ginter’s power started to blossom after the All-Star Break last season, so 20-25 HR this year isn’t out of the picture. Hopefully Ned Yost is smart enough to realize Ginter is the perfect two-hole hitter, but I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon.

    That list of 10 was it for today. Who do you think will breakout next year? Leave it in the comments...

    Finally, I want to touch on a piece a reader pointed me to yesterday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Terence Moore wrote his newest piece on Ken Griffey Jr...

    Consider this: They should switch Chipper Jones from left field back to third base, where he wasn't bad. In fact, he was good at that position, give or take a botched grounder or three. They should put newcomer J.D. Drew in left, and they should move the wonderful glove, arm and instincts of Andruw Jones from center to right.

    And in center?

    Ken Griffey Jr.

    First of all, this is a terrible idea. Chipper is disastrous in both positions, and Andruw is ten times more valuable in center than Griffey. And even if the team were going to think about this, Griffey’s contract would pose a bit of a problem:

    2004: $12.5M
    2005: $12.5M
    2006: $12.5M
    2007: $12.5M
    2008: $12.5M
    2009: $4M buyout

    If the team wouldn’t give Gary Sheffield a three-year deal for a little more money, why would they get Griffey for five years? Griffey is way too risky to acquire, and asking three prominent players to switch positions in Spring Training is a bad idea. A few more of my favorite quotes:

    - “Barring Yankee Stadium sliding into the East River by opening day, Griffey will add to Steinbrenner's collection of elites.” And why does Moore say this? He claims it’s “Just a hunch.” Good investigative journalism.
    - “Steinbrenner knows that Griffey’s injury situation is a fluke.” What? Are you kidding me? Griffey has a chronic injury, and as Will Carroll points out in an interview at Red’s Daily, “If he's a step faster, he doesn't dive and hurt his shoulder.” Griffey’s injury is hardly a fluke, it’s a major concern.
    - And why all the thought that “Griffey likes the Yankees”? Isn’t this the same guy that received hundreds of death threats after declining a trade to New York?

    Poorly written article, not as well thought out as a columnist should be. But I won’t continue my criticism, Aaron Gleeman’s better at that than I am.

    Editor's Note- Shortly after writing this article, I find the irony that Gleeman spent his whole piece today bashing Moore. Who knew?

    WTNYMarch 02, 2004
    Preview: Expos
    By Bryan Smith

    After a day of perusing the Internet, I’m back into preview/review mode. Today is the Expos, and for explanation on how I’m doing my previews, see this link. Enjoy...

    It looked as if Vladimir Guerrero moving to another franchise was the beginning of the Expos demise. And while the team landed in last place this year, there is hope for the future. This is largely because the team holds two of the brightest young hitters in the game, Brad Wilkerson and Nick Johnson. Losing Jose Vidro hurts, but the team remains optimistic about Orlando Cabrera.

    Before the season, the Expos were looking to improve these positions to help for the loss of Vlad:

    1B 2003: .274/.343/.448
    3B 2003: .230/.298/.331
    LF 2003: .261/.336/.426
    CF 2003: .246/.305/.351

    Johnson and Wilkerson just destroyed the first base and left field categories in 2004, allowing Batista and Sledge to have average years. We should have suspected this from Johnson and Wilkerson as their previous patience numbers (see AtR) showed. Wilkerson walks, finally developed power, and has no platoon split. Johnson is the demi-God of walks, and though he couldn’t top 450 at-bats, still showed considerable power.

    At the beginning of the year, Montreal was having success with this lineup:

    1. Vidro- 2B
    2. Cabrera- SS
    3. Johnson- 1B
    4. Everett- RF
    5. Wilkerson- LF
    6. Batista- 3B
    7. Sledge- CF
    8. Schneider- C

    Vidro really did make sense in the leadoff slot, despite having one of the better slugging percentages for Major League 2B. Much of Vidro’s SLG is derived from his exorbitant amount of doubles, which works wonders in the leadoff hole. After only 16 home runs this year, Vidro has topped twenty home runs only once, but is consistently above forty doubles. Couple that with an OBP guaranteed to be above .380 and you have a fantastic leadoff man.

    This really made Vidro attractive to Paul DePodesta in Los Angeles, who beat out the Cashmans, Epsteins, and Hendrys to nab one of the league’s best 2B. And just for Joel Hanrahan and Joel Guzman? It was a steal for the new Dodger GM for sure, but not nearly enough to take the NL West.

    Omar Minaya decided to keep Orlando Cabrera, largely because he’s voiced his desire to remain an Expo so loudly. With the recent rumors that Robert Johnson will buy the team in a month’s time, Cabrera might be in for some big cash. With a 20/20 year in his belt, Cabrera is one of the six best SS in the game, a high compliment considering the likes of Tejada, Nomar, Jeter, Renteria, and Furcal are in this debate. And wow, it’s still weird to write that without A-Rod.

    While the offense managed to improve, it was the pitching that took a drastic step down in 2004. The team was really hoping Livan Hernandez would yield more that a mid-level prospect at the deadline, but the White Sox were really the ones dangling prospects. The Expos were hoping that Claudio Vargas would build upon his 2003 season, but instead he took a giant leap backwards into the 5.00s.

    Will Tomo Ohka ever return to his 2002 self? Apparently not. I think the Expos would be best to get out of that situation ASAP. Tony Armas doesn’t look like he’ll ever touch his potential, but sadly, he was the Expos top starter in 2004. Zach Day’s depressing 5.00 K/9 really makes the Milton Bradley trade look like a Shapiro steal. Hanrahan was impressive in August and September, and he’s the probable bet for best Expo starter in 2005.

    The bullpen went through spurts, and struggled early with Frank Robinson’s stuborness to take Rocky Biddle out of the closer’s role. It was obvious from day one that Chad Cordero was the best fit for the job, but Robinson felt it necessary to ignore every peripheral number out there, and go with the experienced veteran. Did this guy really play under Earl Weaver?

    Luis Ayala remains a nice groundball threat in the bullpen, but Joey Eischen has been deemed worthless. I’m a big Dan Smith fan, but a seller of T.K. Tucker. Randy Choate may after all turn into a decent LOOGY, but hey, even Eischen looked good once.

    Of all Major League Baseball’s upcoming workload, getting rid of the Expos should be priority number one. Selling Robert Johnson the team, and then moving it to Washington is well worth the relocation fee that Peter Angelos would get. But if this team could possibly keep Orlando Cabrera, that would be great. Omar Minaya’s done a good job with what he’s been given, and I hope the team at least gives him a chance for the GM slot. Now Frank Robinson on the other hand...

    See anything good around the Internet lately, drop it in the comments. Also, what’s the consensus on an Expo finish?

    WTNYMarch 01, 2004
    Lookin' Around
    By Bryan Smith

    Hey, anyone else got a case of the Mondays? Maybe it was from staying up and watching the Oscars, which after 6 or so Lord of the Rings victories got me a little upset. Forgive me for liking Billy Crystal, and wow, did you see Julia Roberts or Jennifer Garner? Thats enough Oscar talk for a year, last time I checked, I wrote about baseball here.

    Today Ill run through what Im reading on the Internet, as its been an interesting week. Im thinking about changing my sidebar to the articles Ive noticed around the Internet, pointing to good articles rather than good sites. Thoughts?

    First, I have to give some props to Alex Belth. Not only is he one of the best writers on the Internet, but last week showed that he can call the shots behind the scenes as well. Belth put together a week worth of Yankees previews that was sensational, one of the best ways to preview a team Ive ever seen. My personal favorite article was Rich Lederer and Belths take on Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter, but I recommend going back and perusing each article.

    To conclude his preview, Belth has put together an All-Star cast of writers to give their thoughts on the Yankees hottest topics. The fact that Belth can get two New York writers, the head Propsectus columnist, and an ESPN writer in the same group (not to mention Larry Mahnken!) says a lot about the growing power of us amateur writers.

    Diving more into that topic, Belth was the feature of a Journal News story this weekend entitled A growing sports voice. This talks about the best New York sites around the Internet, and also quotes a media columnist as saying, Blogs are only going to get more popular. Lets hope so.

    Also mentioned in that article is Aaron Gleeman, a necessary mention when talking about baseball blogs. I really enjoyed a series Gleeman put together last week judging his 2003 top 50 prospect list. Gleeman comes to recognize that he underrated ten players, overrated sixteen players, and was neutral on twenty-four selections. Fun group of articles, I cant wait to do the same on my top 50.

    Speaking of minor league rankings, Baseball America unleashed their top 100 last week. After reading their list, I wanted to compare my top 50 to that of BA, Baseball Propsectus, and The Minors First. Here are my findings:


    Site Same Ranking Within One Different Players
    BA 6 4 9
    BP 1 1 11
    TMF 5 3 8

    I was most similar to Baseball America, where we had Mauer (1), Upton (2), Barfield (20), Guzman (26), McPherson (33), and Wagner (46) all ranked equally. Of our nine different selections, three of their players (Kyle Sleeth, Kaz Matsui, Jeff Allison) didnt fit my criteria. As expected, me and Baseball Prospectus differed greatly, although many of the selections are similar. I wont rehash my comments on their rankings, but believe me, theyre smarter men than me. Finally, its apparent me and Mike Gullo see things eye-to-eye. We ranked Mauer, Kazmir (14), Young (17), Hardy (25), and McPherson (33) equally. I guess well see how everyone did come September.

    In Cubs news, the team spent the weekend locking up a couple of integral pieces of their future. Derrek Lee signed a three-year, $22.5M deal, less than what I expected he would make. Kerry Wood, my most favorite player in the game, signed three years, $32.5M deal, with an option that should get picked up at the end. Im convinced that Jim Hendry is a good GM, and I was impressed by both these comments. Wood came out way under Colon, about equal to Roy Halladay, and a bit below Javier Vazquez. Glad to see both these guys are staying in Chicago.

    What does this mean for 2005? The Cubs are quickly signing players, and will have very few holes next year. The rotation should replace Matt Clement with Angel Guzman, and Hendry wont have many holes in the bullpen to path. The offense will be open at catcher, second base, shortstop, and left field. Brendan Harris appears to be the logical choice for second, and Dave Kelton or Jason Dubois could handle left. At shortstop? How about Orlando Cabrera?

    Will Carroll wrote his latest THR on the Cubs, and while I wont comment too much (its Premium content), I was pretty happy. No reds is nice, but it looks to be an exorbitant amount of yellows. My bet is that Alou and Zambrano miss time, but I dont think anyone else will. Prior and Maddux? Id hate to jinx thembut no way. The multi-tasking Carroll also appeared for an interview at the Futility Infielder, talking up his Yankees THR. Its a nice run-through for Yankees fans, and while I hate giving you guys a plug, I just cant seem to avoid it.

    Speaking of the Yankees, in Gammons latest, he gives an El Duque update:


    Orlando Hernandez threw "considerably better" this week in a private showing for Boston on Wednesday and a public showing Friday for several teams. He still is three to four weeks from being ready to pitch in games, but there is genuine interest. "It's coming down to the Yankees and Red Sox," says one source close to El Duque. "We may have a good idea Monday." El Duque is still close to Boston bullpen coach Euclides Rojas, who was a star reliever for Industriales and the Cuban National team when Hernandez broke in with both. They have remained friends for many years.

    It makes more sense for the Yankees to sign him, as Contreras, Lieber, and Brown all have injury concerns tied to them. Who knows if El Duque can provide anything for a Major League team anymore, but hes better George insurance than a youngster like Jorge De Paula.

    Also in the Gammons article


    The Twins are in the market for a starting pitcher, and will talk about Jacque Jones. That began some Jones-Kazuhisa Ishii rumors, which would force the Dodgers to take on $1.9 million this season.

    Los Angeles desperately needs to add more offense, as Rich Lederer showed us this weekend. I always shunned upon the Juan Encarnacion acquisition, but I didnt know he was a top ten out producer. Yikes. The Dodgers are a shoo-in for the leagues worst offense, and the reason they wont finish top three in the NL West. But hey, theres always Edwin Jackson and Greg Millder to fall back on.

    Finally, without transition, there are two more articles around the Internet that caught my fancy. First was the Baseball Savants long look at the Braves 12-year run, a history lesson worth reading. Lastly is Jonah Keris interview of Bill Bavasi, the Mariners GM quickly becoming the worst GM in baseball. Keri pins him in the corner about the Raul Ibanez signing, and as usual, gets good content from a GM.

    Thats all for today, Ill be back tomorrow with an Expo preview