WTNYJanuary 31, 2005
More Rookie Looks
By Bryan Smith

Earlier this winter, I looked at some of the rookies that we could see playing during the 2005 season. Now that rosters are beginning to be filled, I thought I?d take a look to see what competition rookies and Rule 5 picks will be facing in Spring Training.

Over the weekend, I completed some depth charts for the projected 25-man rosters of each team in the AL Central, West and NL East divisions. Don?t ask me why I chose these three, it was a bit spontaneous, as to not follow the standard East-Central-West format.

I won?t list each team?s projected 25-man, if you want those, shoot me an e-mail (bsmithwtny@yahoo.com). Instead, for each team I?ll talk about who I see possibly contributing?in April. This is just a look at who will be making the team out of Arizona/Florida, as I?m sure the season will give me enough time to speculate about the rest.

To keep my random theme going, here?s the 14 teams I?ve looked at, in no particular order?

Chicago White Sox

Huh, picked the hometown team first. Anyway, the White Sox are pretty set in their roster, one with little chance of a rookie breaking. The most obvious is Tadahito Iguchi, who by MLB rules, should be considered a rookie despite years of professional experience. His presence has made Willie Harris quite discontent, and if his wish to exit the organization is fulfilled, you could see Wilson Valdez make the team. Acquired from Florida, Valdez was once upon a time an Ozzie Guillen reclamation project, so the ties are there for the two to re-join on the South Side.

Detroit Tigers

Despite an organization with not a lot of promise, the Tigers won?t be featuring too many rookies in 2005. A head-on battle during Spring Training will be Alex Sanchez against Curtis Granderson, with the likely outcome being sending their top prospect to AAA for some seasoning. His breakout in AA was likely park-related, so seeing just how real of a prospect he is could be of some help. Ryan Raburn has an outside chance at the second base job, but that would only be if Fernando Vina starts the year on the DL and Alan Trammell prefers Omar Infante on the bench. You could see a rookie reliever nab the bullpen?s last spot, though an ex-prospect like Franklyn German or ex-Rule 5 pick like Matt Roney is more likely.

Oakland Athletics

It?s very possible that the Rookie of the Year race will be won and lost in Oakland. Nick Swisher will probably be one of the favorites, though until Eric Byrnes is traded, Swisher is not completely assured of consistent playing time. Either is Dan Johnson, especially after Billy Beane told Athletics Nation that the first base job is Scott Hatteberg?s to lose. A bit of loyalty over common sense from Mr. Beane?

A re-built rotation will likely have two rookies in Joe Blanton and Dan Meyer, both solid if unspectacular prospects. Neither will draw the media praise of a Dontrelle Willis, but both should be more consistent. And again, I?m bound by Major League Baseball rules to mention Keiichu Yabu, who will be fighting for both a spot in the rotation and bullpen. One of his competitors in the ?pen will be Tyler Johnson, a Rule 5 pick who?s hope of staying with the team likely resides in Ricardo Rincon?s left arm health.

Florida Marlins

A massive lack of depth in Florida will be the only hope for a lot of rookies to stick in south beach, as the Marlins will be giving no rookies extended playing time. Josh Willingham, who?s MLEs speak quite highly of what he could bring, will be battling with Matt Treanor (typical back-up catcher) for that spot. Chris Aguila, a no-namer, has a chance at the last bench spot, with little competition at this point. Cub fans will not be pleased to hear that Luke Hagerty pretty much has a ? chance of making the team, only needing to overcome battles with Ben Howard, Tim Spooneybarger and Justin Wayne for the final spot.

Washington Nationals

While we once thought there could be loads of rookies on this team, Jim Bowden has slowly compiled a veteran-heavy team. Rule 5 picks Tony Blanco and Ty Godwin will battle Wil Cordero and Endy Chavez respectively, for spots, and both are likely going to come up losers. Ryan Church, sort of a poor man?s Jason Bay, will take on J.J. Davis for a bench spot, and could become the starter if Nick Johnson gets hurt in Spring Training, or Brad Wilkerson becomes a Cub. In the bullpen, no-names Gary Majewski and Francis Beltran could make the team, but are ninth and tenth on my depth chart at this point.

Texas Rangers

Yuck, this team is definitely headed down the 2004 Kansas City Royals path of destruction. Adrian Gonzalez will battle with David Delucci for the Designated Hitter spot, with a loss sending him back to AAA?again. After signing a three-year contract to stay away from the Sacramento Kings, expect 6-10 Chris Young to get a good number of starts in Arlington. He doesn?t have a ton of upside, but this team will take 5th starter numbers if they can find it. And if things bounce right in Spring Training, and I can assure you they won?t, real prospects Ian Kinsler or John Hudgins could open in Dallas.

New York Mets

Unfortunately, the Mets decided to call up David Wright early enough in the 2004 season to expel him of rookie status, eliminating the 2005 favorite from competition. They are now fully prepared to add no one to the argument now, with another pitcher from Japan (though he's Korean), Dae Sung Koo, the best of the bunch. Also, I believe Heath Bell will make the team after a dazzling 25 innings last year, and he?ll be a very solid reliever on a team with little in that department.

Minnesota Twins

While Baseball America is going against the grain ranking Joe Mauer in their prospect rankings this winter, MLB rules will not allow him to be up for Rookie of the Year. Instead, the Twins will let Jesse Crain try and win the award, though they won?t be giving him the sexy stat that BBWAA writers love: saves. Terry Tiffee is behind both Michael Cuddyer and Eric Munson for 3B at-bats, and Mike Ryan has the same David v. Goliath chance of making the roster. Ryan Rowland-Smith, the club?s Rule 5 pick, actually has a hope of opening in Minnesota. He?ll need either Joe Mays or Terry Mulholland to open the season on the DL, and then beat out C.J. Nitkowski for the final spot. Neither is asking too much, is it?

Atlanta Braves

So much has been made as to whether Andy Marte or Jeff Francoeur will open the season with the Braves, but I don?t think that will happen. Marte will spend Spring Training learning the left field position, and only not report to Richmond should Brian Jordan or Raul Mondesi not be ready, and the Braves not choosing Ryan Langerhans to man the spot. I think the rookie with the best chance is Kyle Davies, who really only needs a Horacio Ramirez re-injury at this point, and really has the Braves? front office approval. Finally, Roman Colon is another reliever with under the right amount of innings, so he can still qualify for ROY voting. He?ll get no support there, though he?ll probably earn some Bobby Cox trust this year.

Kansas City Royals

Meet the American League?s worst team. The most exciting thing in Kansas City this year will be Zack Greinke, as he moves to his second year of experience as the Royals most hyped player in recent memory. He?ll likely help cloud the emergence of Mark Teahen, who only really needs to overcome Chris Truby and Tony Graffanino to win the third base job. Given the support he has from Royal brass, I don?t think that should be an issue. Besides him, you?re looking at the back-up catcher (Paul Phillips or Mike Tonis) and fifth starter spot (Denny Bautista, though not likely) being the most likely sources. Andy Sisco has a chance of staying, and it depends on Tony Pena?s decision to carry 11 or 12 pitchers, and his ability to be in the top two of the Shawn Camp, D.J. Carrasco, Dennis Tankersley, Sisco foursome.

Cleveland Indians

Johnny Peralta and Brandon Phillips might seem like rookies, so might Grady Sizemore, but none will garner votes for Rookie of the Year. I can honestly say that I don?t think any Indian will, barring unforeseen circumstances. Ryan Garko has an outside chance if there?s an injury, and there are probably some pitchers who could make it, but remember, Matt Miller, Chad Zerbe, Cliff Bartosh and Denny Stark are probably all on the outside looking in at this point.

Anaheim Angels

Dallas McPherson. He has believers, and no real contender for the third base spot. He has the Jeremy Burnitz skillset that will attract voters, and should be considered one of the more likely ROY winners. He could have some competition in his own organization, but both Casey Kotchman and Kendry Morales are stretches at this point. I think you?ll see Kotchman in AAA and Morales in the Texas League to open the year, and the former forcing Bill Stonemann?s hand at the deadline. Will he have Terry Ryan?s vision, and trade Darin Erstad, or Larry Beinfest?s stubbornness, and deal Kotchman? Time will tell.

Philadelphia Phillies

This will finally be Chase Utley?s year for consistent playing time, perfectly coinciding with his exit from rookie status. Marlon Byrd has one of those problems, though Kenny Lofton?s entrance will likely send Byrd to Scranton. The 25th man spot could be a battle between Jose Offerman and a pair of rookies, the heralded Ryan Howard and Rule 5 pick Shane Victorino, with Howard really only making it should Thome be injury-plagued. Gavin Floyd is really the best bet, but he?ll still need Padilla or Wolf to be injured, or to beat Brett Myers should he want a real ROY chance.

Seattle Mariners

After such a good September call-up, you have to expect the Mariners to find a way for Jeremy Reed to get playing time. My guess is that Randy Winn will become the 4th outfielder, with Reed and Ibanez the two getting consistent playing time in center and left, respectively. The story of the spring could be the team?s last rotation spot, where Felix Hernandez is set to battle with Aaron Sele and Gil Meche. Team officials are saying that Hernandez will not make the team, but with a good enough spring, anything is possible. Clint Nageotte and Travis Blackley have shots at the team, but both are probably best served with a little more AAA seasoning.

That?s all for today. Next Monday I?ll finish this mini-series, followed by some Vegas-odds for the ROY crowns.

Comments

"...Billy Beane told Athletics Nation that the first base job is Scott Hattebergs to lose. A bit of loyalty over common sense from Mr. Beane?"

What's with all the Hatteberg haters lately (not just you, Bryan)? I realize Hatteberg isn't a superstar, but he did hit .284/.367/.420 (OPS+ 104), played pretty damn good defense and will only make about $3M in '05. Johnson is already 25, so it's not like he's a young stud in the waiting. Baseball Prospectus has Johnson's peak at a .284 EqA, which means he'd be a slightly better-than-average 1B, like Hatteberg.

I think it's a little early to be throwing Scott under the bus, don'tcha think?

Mota, Alfonseca, Riedling, Jones, Perisho and one or two (depending on whether they carry eleven or twelve pitchers, but I'd guess twelve given their bench) from Spooneybarger, Bump, Hagerty, Howard, Wayne and Bentz, that's what the Marlin bullpen looks like to me. Since Howard, Wayne and Bentz are God-awful, I'd completely disregard them if I were the Marlins (though then again, if I were the Marlins, I'd do so many things differently), but Hagerty's chances of sticking still look really slim to me, and I think he'll be returned before Opening Day provided the other Marlin bullpen arms remain healthy. It's Sisco I'm more worried about.

Any particular reason you didn't mention Jason Bartlett? He's the one Twins player that I think could actually win ROY award. Crain while great is still just a setup guy until Nathan is too expensive.

I know the most probable outcome is that Juan Castro and Nick Punto play SS, but if Bartlett makes it he could go .275-.280 with 5-10 HRs, 10-15 SBs with decent defense.

What do you see in store offensively for the following 3rd basemen this season: Sean Burroughs, Morgan Ensberg, and Cory Koskie. Will Ensberg emerge as the elite player he was supposed to be last year? Will Burroughs hit for power?

It's not that I really don't like Hatteberg, I just think Dan Johnson offers considerably more upside. I just don't see the reasons for not trading Scott and Chad Bradford.

The Twins front office does not like Jason Bartlett much, or at least I think that from their comments, and I really doubt he'll start the year at shortstop. He could be up by May or June and post the numbers you mentioned, but those are hardly ROY material. Especially in what will be a loaded class with Swisher, McPherson, Kazmir, etc.

Finally, the 3B question. I once compared Burroughs to Dan Driessen, a reasonable argument that he'll never really develop the power that scouts once thought. Koskie is a good bet to succeed, and should get time off the turf with Eric Hinske splitting 3B time. Ensberg is actually the best bet to succeed in my mind, though last year was definitely concerning. Just stay away from Burroughs in fantasy drafts, that's for sure.

"The story of the spring could be the teams last rotation spot, where Felix Hernandez is set to battle with Aaron Sele and Gil Meche. Team officials are saying that Hernandez will not make the team, but with a good enough spring, anything is possible. Clint Nageotte and Travis Blackley have shots at the team, but both are probably best served with a little more AAA seasoning."

Actually, Meche's spot in the rotation is pretty secure. Not that he has been consistent in the rotation, but he finished the 2004 season very strong after correcting an error in his approach to pitching during a demotion to AAA. Thus, Joel Pineiro, Jamie Moyer, Gil Meche, and Bobby Madritsch are pretty much assured spots in the rotation unless they totally fall apart or get injured.

The fifth spot is open to competition. Ryan Franklin is the incumbent, but he is a very mediocre 5th starter. He has been better in long relief, and given the M's sketchy rotation, the long relievers will be getting lots of work. The others in the mix are Aaron Sele, Clint Nageotte, Travis Blackley, Felix Hernandez, Cha Seung Baek, and Dan Reichert. I am hoping that one of Nageotee, Blackley or Baek step up in spring training and win the job, with Felix as a mid-season callup. However, these guys, or Felix, would need to be pretty good to beat Franklin. Sele is probably the most likely Plan B, since the club seems to want to give the others a bit more time in Tacoma.

I expect Randy Winn to be in left field if the M's come out of ST with both he and Ibanez - ibanez will take over at DH with Bucky J, not being ready for the opening day after having his knee operated on (should be able to play soon after, but, don't expect him to get all the DH ABs - my reasoning is Winn is much better for the defense

In part of NY Mets, Mr.Dae Sung Koo is not Japanese pitcher. He is Korean who had been playing in Japan as well as in Korea.

From your comment on the Royals:

"youre looking at the back-up catcher (Paul Phillips or Mike Tonis)"

John Buck is the starting Catcher for the Royals and Alberto Castillo will be the backup. We will only see Paul Phillips on the roster if there is an injury to either of these two, otherwise he will be playing at Omaha. Tonis is considered a draft bust by the Royals and will probably remain at Wichita this season.

Bob
RoyalMania.com

what a disappointment..I had a lot of respect for this blog...I thought Bryan brought a lot of interesting insight to the morld of minor league projections, but his glaring errors regarding Dae Sung Koo are just a little too elementary to be overlooked. And to think I was gonna make him the godfather of my children...for shame...

Hello Bryan,

You will find that you're not alone on the Kazmir and Cain issue. John Sickels have the same concerns. See his updated 2005 prospect column and the book publication.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?id=1981234

Jiggz

I imagine that if Hargrove uses Reed correctly -- spliced between Ichiro and Beltre (i.e. in the #2 hole) and starting in either CF or LF -- Reed will see a lot of good pitches and hit the heck out of the ball. His CF defense will impress some people, underwhelm others, but an OF trio of (from L - R) Winn, Reed, Ichiro will appear most often, with Ibanez as the DH.

Reed is the perfect #2 hitter for this lineup, and will really have a legitimate shot for ROY honors.

I have a question for you or anyone out there. What are the top prospects for this year overall. Im in a keeper league and we are about to have the rookie draft. Player includes, player signed to a MLB contract (from last years Draft) and foreign players?

Im not sure if you can answer it, I know that you are a busy person. Or if any one knows of a site I can go to find out. I would be thankful. You have a great site here keep up the good work.

The rule in the league is

College and Foreign Players

College players (drafted this year in June) and foreign players are not eligible to be drafted or picked up until the rookie draft in February of the following year.

Im just looking for the top 10 to 15 players

Thanks

Does anyone know what happened to all the Cub's minor league pitchers who were injured last year, i.e. Blasko, Wylie, Marshall Guzman, etc?

Does anyone know what happened to all the Cub's minor league pitchers who were injured last year, i.e. Blasko, Wylie, Marshall Guzman, etc?

Jeff,
Go to Baseball America for college, and um, japanesebaseball.com for furriners.

Well, considering Cameron might not be ready to go, I think you have to add Victor Diaz to the list. He and Valent will more than likely handle the workload in RF til Cammy is back.