View Full Version : Things to keep an eye on (3/1)

03-01-2006, 02:05 PM
March 01, 2006
Things to keep an eye on
Gannett News Service

After an offseason marked by stars on the mend, wounded free-agent egos and hurt front-office feelings, Here are SOME storylines to watch:

5teams with star issues

Giants: 14 games. That's what the team got out of Barry Bonds last year, yet it still pushed San Diego to the final week before dropping from contention. This spring, his right knee again figures to be the difference between mediocrity and prosperity.

Red Sox: To win it all in 2004, Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling essentially had to sacrifice 2005. Now, the Sox hope that Foulke's knee is sound to take the heat off their young relievers. And if Schilling's celebrated right ankle is OK, a deep rotation becomes imposing with Schilling and newly acquired Josh Beckett at the forefront.

Cubs: After a 79-83 season, Chicago shuffled the top of its lineup, dealing away Corey Patterson and acquiring Juan Pierre. But Pierre will be flanked in the outfield by a first-year starter (Matt Murton) and a National League newcomer (Jacque Jones).

Dodgers: What should be a feel-good story Nomar Garciaparra returning to his hometown is clouded by the fact that he has played 140-plus games just twice in five years and has never played first base. The boost provided when INF Cesar Izturis and closer Eric Gagne return from injuries could create friction when Jeff Kent, Garciaparra and Danys Baez are forced to shift roles.

Twins: Cash-strapped Minnesota has been bleeding talent for years, and now Gold Glove CF Torii Hunter will be a free agent after this season. His future will be a focal point from Day 1.

5 who will be missed

Roger Clemens, Astros: The Astros didn't offer him arbitration in December and now the 341-game winner is preparing for the World Baseball Classic and trying to determine whether he can make it through another season. Depending on how much they miss Clemens (did the Lakers miss Shaq?), the Astros could bring him back after May 1.

Bob Howry, Cubs: The right-hander was third in the American League with 29 holds for Cleveland and then signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Cubs. That may be too rich for the Indians, but they also must replace David Riske and Arthur Rhodes, both of whom were traded.

Bengie Molina, Blue Jays: The former Gold Glove catcher was the Angels' best clutch hitter down the stretch last season but was set free to sign with the Blue Jays (one-year, $5.8 million). Now the Angels will try to replace him with brother Jose and rookie Jeff Mathis; can they afford the offensive drop-off?

Juan Pierre, Cubs; Luis Castillo, Twins: As the Nos. 1-2 hitters for the Marlins from 2003-05, Pierre and Castillo combined to average 186 runs scored per season. There's no making up for that, but, then again, the rebuilding Marlins have many worries.

Reggie Sanders, Royals: The Cardinals let him go across state, taking with him his leadership, attitude and the ability to still get it done at age 38. His teams have reached the playoffs in five of the past six seasons.

5 coming back from injuries

Brian Roberts, Orioles: The second baseman hit 18 homers and had a .515 slugging percentage before tearing a ligament and tendon in his non-throwing elbow Sept. 20. He has said he'll be ready by opening day, but will he have a backslide from his breakout year?

Eric Gagne, Dodgers: He avoided Tommy John surgery last summer, but the injury was bad enough to keep him off a mound until recently. The key for Gagne will be regaining enough zip on his fastball to make his change-up as deadly as it was in his 2003 Cy Young year.

Scott Rolen, Cardinals: Rolen expects setbacks this spring, saying recently, "My point is, April 3 is my date." If he comes all the way back from right shoulder surgery, the Cardinals will be very difficult to beat in the NL Central.

Rocco Baldelli, Devil Rays: He's coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and reconstructive right elbow surgery. Tampa Bay gave him a long-term deal, but much of it is incentive-laden after he missed all of 2005.

Kerry Wood, Cubs: Starter? Reliever? Last year as a Cub? We'll find out as Wood tries to bounce back from surgery on his throwing shoulder. It's a key year for him: the Cubs hold a $13.5 million option for 2007.

5 faces in new places

Johnny Damon, Yankees: How drastically can one man swing the balance of power in the Most Chronicled Rivalry in Sports? Better yet, can he lead the Yankees past the first round of the playoffs?

Kenji Johjima, Mariners: The Japanese catcher signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal, and now all he has to do is learn to speak English and continue to average 30 homers a year.

Jim Leyland, Tigers: He's managing for the first time since 1999, when he suffered a Rocky Mountain low and retired after a 72-90 season with Colorado. Leyland will have to prove he still has the touch that helped him lead teams to the playoffs four times in the 1990s.

Kevin Millwood, Rangers: Will the right-hander defy the odds and become a top-notch starter in the red-hot Arlington wind tunnel? Or is he Exhibit B, behind Chan Ho Park, for why the Rangers generally avoid pricey free-agent pitchers?

Billy Wagner, Mets: New York paid top dollar (four years, $43 million) for this top-flight closer, and now he has to deliver, or he'll be the one paying a steep price.

5 new faces to watch

Josh Barfield, Padres: The son of former major-leaguer Jesse Barfield will compete for the second base job with Mark Bellhorn and Bobby Hill. Barfield had 15 homers and 20 stolen bases at Triple-A in 2005.

Jeremy Hermida, Marlins: In a spring full of questions for the Marlins, Hermida is a certainty after hitting .293, with four homers, in 41 at-bats last season. The right fielder also has been rated by various pundits to be one of the game's top hitting prospects.

Ian Kinsler, Rangers: The rookie goes against veterans Mark DeRosa and D'Angelo Jimenez for the right to take over for Alfonso Soriano at second base.

Casey Kotchman, Angels: He hit .302, with seven homers, after getting called up in August, and now has the first base job after two seasons split between Triple-A and the Angels.

Chad Orvella, Devil Rays: The right-hander will compete with a cast of thousands for the closer job. He had a 4.32 ERA in 50 innings last season.

5 changing positions

Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: He goes back to where he started, moving from the outfield to third base. Oh, and he'll also be counted on to carry the team's offense.

Adam Dunn, Reds: Since he walks so much (106 per season since 2002), Dunn should know his way around his new position: first base. However, OFs Austin Kearns, Ken Griffey Jr. and Wily Mo Pena are susceptible to injury and Dunn shouldn't get too comfortable.

Darin Erstad: Angels: Erstad won two Gold Gloves in the outfield before winning one at first base. Now he returns to center field. It will be stunning if he can make it through the spring without running into something or pulling a hamstring.

Ryan Madson, Phillies: The right-hander has been a reliable middle reliever for two seasons, but now he joins a rotation looking for a true No. 1.

Alfonso Soriano, Nationals: Soriano has never played left field and doesn't want to try, but as long as Jose Vidro is healthy, the Nats are expecting him to make the move. Sit back and watch Soriano butt heads with manager Frank Robinson.


03-01-2006, 02:09 PM
Top 25 First Basemen
from Scott Thompson (About.com Baseball Associate)

First base is the fantasy mother load as it is loaded with power hitters. In order to compete for a fantasy championship you need solid production out of your first baseman and should not settle for less. The following rankings will enlighten you on what to expect from the deep crop of fantasy first baseman.

1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals – Pujols has been a fantasy stud since his first appearance in the majors. Over the last five years, he has hit .332 with an average of 40 HR, 124 RBI, and 126 runs scored. Those five years are also the first five years of his career. Pujols is only 26 so he could continue to get better. He is a lock for a .320-40-120 season, and he even stole 16 bases in 2005.

2. Mark Teixeira, Texas Rangers – Teixeira put together a huge season in 2005, batting .301 AVG/.380 OBP/.575 SLG with 43 HR, 144 RBI, and 112 runs scored.

The only thing he doesn’t do is steal bases. Like Pujols, Teixeira is still young at 26 and should be able to improve upon his 2005 numbers. He should be considered a Top 10 overall fantasy player.

3. Derrek Lee, Chicago Cubs – Lee had a career year in 2005 as he hit .335 with 46 HR, 107 RBI, 120 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. He led all first baseman in home runs and was third in stolen bases. Lee is a rarity at first base with his speed and has averaged 17 SB over the last four years. There is some cause for concern considering Lee had never hit above .282 prior to last season and his previous career high in home runs was 32. Lee should still have a good season, but it will be difficult to repeat last year’s performance.

4. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies – Helton suffered through a down season in 2005 but still managed to hit .320 with 20 HR, 79 RBI, and 92 runs scored. He picked things up in the second half of the season, batting .367 with 10 HR and 40 RBI. Last year was the first time in the last seven seasons that he did not hit 30+ home runs or score 100+ runs. Helton is just 32 so he should have a few good seasons left. His supporting cast is more experienced than it was at this time last season, so he should return to Helton-like production in 2006 with a .330 average and 30+HR, 100 RBI, and 100 runs scored.

5. Lance Berkman, Houston Astros – Berkman is expected to patrol first base for the Astros in 2006 as Jeff Bagwell’s career in Houston appears to be over. Berkman got off to a late start in 2005 after missing most of April due to knee surgery. He ended up batting .293 with 24 HR and 82 RBI. He will miss some of Spring Training this season as well after undergoing surgery to clean up the knee. He may get off to a slow start, but he should bat around .300 with 30 HR, 100 RBI, and 100 runs scored.

6. Carlos Delgado, New York Mets – Delgado had a short stay in Florida and will suit up for the Mets in 2006. Delgado has hit at least 30 home runs in each of his last eight seasons and has reached 100 RBI in seven of those eight seasons. The lone season that he did not reach the century mark he had 99 RBI. Shea Stadium has stolen the fantasy value from many a star, including Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn, and Carlos Beltran to name a few. But Delgado should still hit around .280 and hit 30+ HR with 100+ RBI.

7. Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds – Dunn reached 40 home runs for the second straight season in 2005 despite playing with a broken bone in his hand for most of the season. Also, over each of the last two years Dunn has topped the century mark for runs scored, RBI, walks, and strikeouts. He is just a .248 career hitter, but now that he is healthy he could reach 50 HR. He moves from the outfield to first base and should be able to stay healthy playing first.

8. Richie Sexson, Seattle Mariners – Sexson enjoyed his return to the American League despite playing his home games in a pitchers’ park in Seattle. He rebounded from an injury-shortened 2004 by hitting 39 HR and 121 RBI in 2005. Sexson batted just .263 despite hitting above .270 in each of his previous four full seasons, but he will likely hit around .270 and approach 40 HR and 120 RBI as he regains his AL comfort level.

9. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox – For the second straight year, Konerko topped 40 HR and 100 RBI. He topped it off with a strong postseason performance and decided to remain in Chicago despite being eligible for free agency. Frank Thomas is gone, but Jim Thome should be able to provide protection for Konerko. He should able to make it three consecutive seasons with 40 HR and 100 RBI.

10. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies – Howard was named National League Rookie of the Year despite spending most of the first two months of the season in the minors. Howard was recalled when Jim Thome went down for the season and played so well the team felt comfortable trading Thome in the offseason. Howard hit .288 with 22 HR and 63 RBI in 312 at-bats. He could sit some as his struggles against lefties, but he plays in a hitter friendly park and should hit 35 HR with 100 RBI.

In an effort to keep this shorter than the original 3-page article, I only posted page 1. You can see the rest by clicking on: http://baseball.about.com/od/positionranking1/a/1B2006.htm

03-01-2006, 02:19 PM
Sean Casey is lower than Adam Dunn? just kidding.

03-01-2006, 02:24 PM
Todd helton over Adam Dunn is a crime. Put Helton anywhere but Coors and his average numbers last year would be looking mighty good.

Also, Pujols is only 26. Sweet holy Lord, the man is so unbelieveably talented I forget that he could have 10-12 very productive years still ahead of him. Darn scary, really.

03-01-2006, 08:44 PM
Todd helton over Adam Dunn is a crime. Put Helton anywhere but Coors and his average numbers last year would be looking mighty good.

Also, Pujols is only 26. Sweet holy Lord, the man is so unbelieveably talented I forget that he could have 10-12 very productive years still ahead of him. Darn scary, really.
That is a fantasy view, I believe. Dunns BA kills him in fantasy baseball and his walks don't help him much.