Tuesday February 3, 2004
FYI – Victory Sports is coming to the town I live in, Warroad, today. Actually, I still don’t have Victory Sports through my cable provider. However, they are airing the Warroad/Roseau high school hockey game tonight. So, those of you that do have access to Victory Sports should check it out. Warroad is the top ranked team in Class A in Minnesota this year. Their only two losses have been to AA powerhouses Edina and Moorhead. Less than two weeks ago, Warroad beat Roseau 15-0 in Roseau. I would expect tonight’s game to be much closer. This is one of the greatest rivalries I have ever witnessed. Having lived in Warroad for almost seven years now and taking in many of these games, I can actually say that it is incredible. Most are one goal games and I have seen two or three overtime games as well. This rivalry has accounted for some of the best sporting events I have been to. I write primarily about the Twins and the Wolves with some other pro sports intertwined, but sometimes it is good to step back to the high school level.
National League East Pitchers
After finishing a six part series, analyzing the hitters in baseball, I will now begin to discuss the pitching staffs of each big league team, again, by division. In other words, my four part series, which became a nine part series, has now become a 13 part series. I was thinking I would be able to do the pitching analysis in two days. However, there is really nothing going on in baseball these days worth discussing. Also, this allows me to be a little more detailed in my analysis of the players. As always, I hope you enjoy what you read.
I want to do this analysis for a couple of reasons. First, I love fantasy baseball and love discussing what I think of certain players. Second, I know that many people who take the time to read baseball sites like this one participate in fantasy baseball leagues as well. And finally… hey, I need to start figuring out a game plan for my fantasy leagues. I am in three of them, each with different formats, so I hope this helps me as much as it helps you!
However, I do understand that not everyone gets into fantasy sports, and that’s OK too. I do not think that my “analysis” will be too “statty” and should be enjoyable for any baseball fan to read.
I know it is early to be talking about fantasy baseball, but I know that many keeper leagues have to turn in their ‘keepers’ this month. Also, aside from Ivan Rodriguez and Greg Maddux, most of the free agents still available will be bit players and may or may not affect some of the comments below. However, there could still be some trades and signings which could alter some of these opinions. For instance, if Greg Maddux signs with the Cubs, it could affect the fantasy value of Juan Cruz or Angel Guzman. It could also affect how Jacque Jones would be valued.
If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
Disclaimer: What you read below are simply my opinions. Obviously I have no knowledge of what will happen in the 2004 season, so please take the information for what it is worth (fun and opinion). Also, these opinions are subject to change as spring training approaches. All players listed are either projected starters, or starters based on my opinion. I will try to project where each player could be drafted, assuming a 30 round draft.
Here is the schedule for this project:
Tuesday, Jan. 20 - Part 1 - American League Central Hitters
Wednesday, Jan. 21 - Part 2 - American League East Hitters
Thursday, Jan. 22 - Part 3 - American League West Hitters
Friday, Jan. 23 - Part 4 - National League Central Hitters
Monday, Jan. 26 - Part 5 - National League East Hitters
Tuesday, Jan. 27 - Part 6 - National League West Hitters
Wednesday, Jan. 28 - Part 7 - American League Central Pitchers
Thursday, Jan. 29 - Part 8 - American League East Pitchers
Friday, Jan. 30 - Part 9 - American League West Pitchers
Monday, Feb. 2 - Part 10 - National League Central Pitchers
Tuesday, Feb. 3 - Part 11 - National League East Pitchers
Wednesday, Feb. 4 - Part 12 - National League West Pitchers
Thursday, Feb. 5 - Part 13 – Rookies and Prospects
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST PITCHERS
The Braves have completely turned over their pitching staff the last two seasons, but they should still be very good. The Marlins have some guys with some upside who performed well in the playoffs last year. They have to prove that they can do it consistently. The Mets seems to have a good combination of veterans and young players, with an improved defense, they should be better. The Expos have talent, but losing Vazquez hurts. The Phillies, on paper, have the best five-man rotation in the baseball. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper, they’re played on TV!
So, let’s get going on some analysis. If you have any comments, arguments, agreements, questions or anything, please feel free to e-mail me. When this project is complete, I would like to put together a Mailbag issue with many of those comments.
SP – Russ Ortiz
Ortiz has some strange numbers. In 2003, he was 21-7, but had a 3.81 ERA. His WHIP was just 1.31, but a lot of that is attributable to his 102 walks because opponents hit just .233 against him. Since 1999, he has not started less than 32 games in a season. He has averaged well over 200 innings a year. He has been consistent and is 88-51 with a 3.97 ERA. He should get plenty of run support. Take him after the 10th round.
SP – Mike Hampton
Pitching in Colorado for two seasons messed up Hampton. It even took him awhile to adjust once he left Colorado for Atlanta. In the first half of last season, he was 5-5 with a 4.85 ERA. In the 2nd half, he was 9-3 with a 2.91 ERA. I think that the still-just-31 year old Hampton will get back to his former self, like that pitcher who was 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA for the Astros in 1999. Or at least the 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA pitcher that he was in 2000 with the Mets. Take him in the 12th round.
SP – John Thomson
Thomson was by far the Rangers best pitcher last year (not that that means a lot). He was 13-14 with a 4.85 ERA. He started 35 games. His WHIP was just 1.30. He has always been a very average big league pitcher through his years in Colorado and briefly with the Mets. Now 30, he goes to the Braves and I believe that he will become a better-than-average pitcher. I project something like 16-9 with a 4.10 ERA. But, for now, don’t draft him until the 21st round.
SP – Horacio Ramirez
2003 was a good rookie year for Horacio. He went 12-4 with a 4.00 ERA. His WHIP was just 1.39. There are some concerns that make him a fantasy risk. He struck out less than 5 batters per nine innings. He walked 72 batters. But, if he can work on throwing more strikes and keep his other numbers down, Ramirez could take a step forward. Draft him after the 22nd round
SP – Paul Byrd
Paul Byrd had a very good 2002 season with the Royals, going 17-11 with a 3.90 ERA. That translated into a two-year contract with the Braves. Unfortunately, he needed shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2003 season. If he comes back and is healthy, expect good numbers from Byrd. But how much will he have in him, especially in the early season? Make that determination, and then draft him after the 28th round.
Closer – John Smoltz
In 2003, Smoltz pitched in 62 games (missing a few weeks with more elbow problems). He was 0-2 with a 45 saves and a 1.12 ERA. He struck out 73 hitters in 64 1/3 innings. His WHIP was 0.87 and opponents hit just .204 off of him. In 2002, he was 3-2 with 55 saves. He is probably the #2 closer option (behind Gagne), so take him after the 4th round.
Closer – Antonio Alfonseca
Alfonseca was brought in to help out one of the league’s worst bullpens in 2003. He will have to vastly improve on his 2003 numbers if he will do that though. He was 3-1, but had an ERA of 5.83. Opponents hit .290 off him and his WHIP was 1.55. Don’t draft him!
One 2 Watch – Jaret Wright
How bad was the Braves bullpen last year? Jaret Wright was released by the Padres last year after pitching 39 games for them and going 1-5 with a 8.37 ERA. The Braves brought him in and in 11 games, he pitched 9 innings. He struck out nine and walked 3. He was 1-0 with 3 holds and a 2.00 ERA. Explain that? I can’t. Don’t draft him.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Ortiz, Hampton, Smoltz.
The Bad – Bullpen before Smoltz.
The Questions – Can Thomson become the pitcher I think he will become? Will Paul Byrd be healthy? Can John Smoltz stay healthy?
SP – Josh Beckett
The 2003 World Series MVP showed the world just how good he can be. However, he needs to stay away from blisters and start pitching more consistently during the regular season to cement his place as a top pitcher. Last year, he started just 23 games and pitched 142 innings, striking out 152 hitters. He was 9-8, but had a very solid 3.04 ERA. Look for Beckett to jump to that next level this year. Take him in the 4th round.
SP – Brad Penny
Penny will now be spending his 5th season in the Marlins rotation. He too was great in the post-season. He started 32 games last year for the Marlins, pitching 196.1 innings. He was 14-10 with a 4.13 ERA. He needs to get that ERA down to take another step forward. Also, he averaged about 6 ½ strikeouts per 9 innings. Take Penny after the 12th round.
SP – Dontrelle Willis
Willis came up and seemed to energize the Marlins in their run toward the playoffs. He started 27 games and was 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA. Opponents hit just .245 off him and his WHIP was 1.28. He struck out almost 8 batters every 9 innings. It was a very strong rookie showing for the charismatic Willis. I would like to see Willis duplicate or improve upon his 2003 numbers. There are rumors the long-term, he could be a bullpen guy. That makes no sense to me. However, don’t draft him too early. Take him in the 14th round.
SP – Carl Pavano
2003 was a very good year for Pavano. He made 32 starts for the Marlins and went 12-13 with a 4.30 ERA. His WHIP was just 1.26. He hit the 200 inning mark as well. Those are all pretty average numbers, right? So, why was it such a good year for him? Well, he’s dating Alyssa Milano…yes, Alyssa Milano. That sounds like a good year to me!!! Draft him after the 20th round.
SP – Darren Oliver/Justin Wayne
Last year with the Rockies, Oliver was 13-11 in 32 starts and 180 innings. His ERA was 5.04. Oliver is an average, at best, starting pitcher, but he is left handed and is a veteran. He will provide some value to the Marlins, but likely not to your fantasy team. Wayne is one of those guys who has been a prospect for a bunch of years, but to this point, he hasn’t backed it up in two shots at the big league level. His stock further decreased in 2003 when, at AAA, in 23 starts, he was 4-12 with a 4.24 ERA. His strikeout rates and other numbers dropped as well. Don’t draft either of these guys.
Closer – Armando Benitez
Benitez took a lot of grief in 2003. He blew a lot of games early for the Mets, in New York. He later was sent to the Yankees and then the Mariners. But, overall last year, he was 4-4 with a 2.96 ERA with 21 saves. He comes to the Marlins as their closer. Benitez has only had one season where his ERA was below 2.00, but he is consistently below 3.00. I expect a good year from the 31 year old righty. Take him in the 12th round.
Closer – Tim Spooneybarger
When Spooneybarger was brought over from the Braves before the 2003 season, there was a chance he could become the closer. He had done some closing with the Braves. Braden Looper won the job, then Ugueth Urbina was brought in. He was just 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA. However, opponents hit just .190 off him and his WHIP was 0.90. Don’t draft him, but if Benitez struggles, you may want to think about Spooneybarger… just don’t try to spell it!
One 2 Watch – AJ Burnett
As bad as the current 5th starter position looks for the Marlins, they certainly could use AJ Burnett back in their rotation. He started just 4 games last year before he needed arm surgery. It is unlikely he will be back for opening day, but could be plugged into the rotation during the season. In 2002, Burnett pitched 204.1 innings, completing seven games. He was 12-9 with a 3.30 ERA. He struck out a batter an inning. Draft him late, especially if you can keep him on the DL for awhile.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Beckett.
The Bad – 5th starter spot.
Question Marks – Can Willis duplicate his rookie season. Can Beckett stay healthy and look like he did in the World Series? Can Benitez dominate again?
SP – Livan Hernandez
Hernandez is someone that no one seems to want. Year after year, he puts up decent numbers, yet he is in trade rumors constantly. Last year, with the Expos, Hernandez started 33 games (he has started 30 or more each of the last six seasons). He was 15-10 with a 3.20 ERA. He had 178 strikeouts in 233.1 innings. His WHIP was 1.21. He is a solid, but unspectacular starter. Take him around the 17th round.
SP – Tony Armas, Jr.
Armas was just ready for a breakout season in 2003. He was 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA in 5 games. His WHIP was 1.06 and opponents had hit just .225 off him. Then a shoulder injury cut short the rest of his season. In 2002, he was 12-12 with a 4.44 ERA. In 2001, he was 9-14 with a 4.03 ERA. He has averaged over 7 strikeouts per 9 innings. If he is healthy, expect a great year from Armas. Take him in the 14th round.
SP – Zach Day
Zach Day was actually pretty impressive in his time in the rotation last year. At 25, he was 9-8 with a 4.18 ERA. An injury cut short his playing time, but before then, he was very solid. In 2002, he got 2 starts in 19 appearances and was 4-1 with a save and a 3.62 ERA. However, Day should be, and will be, in the Expos rotation. Expect him to continue to improve. Take him in the 16th round.
SP – Tomo Ohka
Ohka took a step backwards in 2003. After going 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA in 2002, Ohka went just 10-12 in 2003. His ERA was up to 4.16. He strikeout and walk totals were exactly the same, however, he did pitch 6+ more innings. He averages just over 5 strikeouts per 9 innings. Ohka should get back to his 2002 numbers, and if so, he’s worth a shot in the 19th round.
SP – Claudio Vargas
Vargas was a good surprise for the Expos last year. The big 25 year old started 20 of his 23 appearances. He was 6-8 with a 4.34 ERA. His WHIP was only 1.33 and opponents hit .255 off him. His numbers weren’t great, but considering that at AAA in 2002, he was 4-11 with a 6.72 ERA, vast improvement was made! Which Vargas will show up? Don’t draft him.
Closer – Rocky Biddle
I’m sure that the Expos didn’t think they were getting their closer when they traded Bartolo Colon’s contract to the White Sox, but Rocky Biddle was just that. He was just 5-8 with a 4.65 ERA, but he recorded 34 saves. I mean, Biddle had been a bad part-time starter for the Sox the previous three years and had done very little to show he was capable of the job. He may be the best example of anyone being able to close games. He should remain the team’s closer in 2004, making him worth a 19th round pick.
Closer – Luis Ayala
If Biddle struggles, the Expos could turn to Luis Ayala to close games. In 2003, he pitched in 65 games. He was 10-3 with 5 saves and a 2.92 ERA. His WHIP was 1.10 and opponents hit just .244 off him. The now 26 year old should continue to improve, although bettering these numbers will b every difficult.
One 2 Watch – Seong Song
Song, a 23 year old righty from Korea, came to the Expos organization from the Boston organization in the 2002 trade that brought the Sox Cliff Floyd. Last year, he started the season at AA Harrisburg and was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA. He moved up to AAA Edmonton and went 7-2 with a 3.79 ERA. He hasn’t been a strikeout pitcher averaging about 5 per nine innings last year. I think Song will have a chance to make the Expos out of spring training, and if not, could be up by midseasons.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Hernandez and Armas.
The Bad – Nothing really bad, just nothing great.
The Question Marks – Can Armas and Day stay healthy? Can Biddle come through again? Who will fill out the last spots in the rotation?
New York Mets
SP – Tom Glavine
After 16 seasons with the Braves, Glavine went to the Mets and he realized how a defense can help out a pitcher. Glavine even missed a start or two, unheard of in the past decade. Glavine is pretty dependable though, averaging over 34 starts the last 8 years. Last year, he was 9-14 with a 4.52 ERA. Never a strikeout pitcher, I just think a lot of singles and doubles fell in that Andruw Jones and other Braves defender would have got to. With a new up-the-middle defense for the Mets (Reyes-Matsui-Cameron), expect Glavine’s numbers to improve as well. However, especially since he will be 38 when the season starts, he isn’t worth drafting before the 18th round.
SP – Al Leiter
Another 38 year old, Leiter was 15-9 with a 3.99 ERA in 2003. He has had double-digit wins each of the past nine seasons. His career ERA is 3.69. He does strikeout about 7 per 9 innings, and has been between 180 and 215 innings nine of the last ten seasons. Remarkably consistent, expect a similar 2004 from Leiter (or slightly better because of the defense and additional run support). Take him in the 15th round.
SP – Steve Trachsel
Trachsel had a second straight good year. In 2003, in 33 starts, Trachsel was 16-10 with a 3.78 ERA. His WHIP was just 1.31. In 2002, he was 11-11, but had an ERA of 3.37. Another non-strikeout pitcher, Trachsel averaged under five strikeouts per nine innings. Again, I see Trachsel having a similar 2004, meaning he could be drafted in the 21st round.
SP – Jae Weong Seo
The 26 year old from South Korea had a solid rookie year in New York. He was 9-12, but had a good ERA of 3.82. His WHIP was just 1.27 and opponents hit just .260 off him. He struck out about 5.3 per 9 innings. Expect Seo to put up similar numbers in 2004. Draft him in the 25th round.
SP – Aaron Heilman
Heilman was a supplemental first round pick of the Twins in 2000, but chose to go back to Notre Dame for his senior season. He was then taken in the first round in 2001 by the Mets. He has put up decent numbers in his 2+ years of pro ball. In 2003, at the age of 24, he started at AAA. He was 6-4 with a 3.24 ERA in 16 starts. He was called up to the Mets in late June and made 13 starts. He was just 2-7 with a 6.75 ERA. However, he did strike out 51 in just over 65 innings (problem was that he also walked 41, and gave up 13 homers). Heilman should be the team’s 5th starter, and should greatly improve in 2004. Take him in the 27th round.
Closer – Braden Looper
Looper started the season as the Marlins closer. By the end of the season, he was setting up for Ugueth Urbina. All said, he pitched 80 2/3 innings in 74 games. He was 6-4 with 28 saves and a 3.68 ERA. He only struck out 6.25 per 9 innings though, low for a typical closer. With the Mets, he should get plenty of save opportunities, making him a very valuable fantasy pitcher. Consider him after the 10th round.
Closer – Scott Strickland/John Franco
27 year old Strickland has been a solid set up man for the last four years between the Expos and the Mets. Last year, he was hurt some and pitched in just 19 games. But, his ERA was 2.25. 43 year old John Franco will be back in 2004 for his 20th season. Last year, he was 0-3 but had a 2.62 ERA and 2 saves after missing all of 2002’s season and the first months of 2003. His 424 saves and 1,036 games pitched rank near the top of the all-time lists. Neither of these guys are worth drafting though.
One 2 Watch – Jeremy Griffiths
At 25, Griffiths got his first big league work. He pitched 9 games, starting 6, and was 1-4 with a 7.02 ERA. At AAA last year, he was 7-6 with a 2.74 ERA. In 2002, he was 8-6 with a 3.89 ERA at AA. Not a great prospect, and certainly not worth drafting. However, it is worth watching.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – The new defense should make the pitchers look better.
The Bad – Not bad, just three older starters.
The Question Marks – Can Glavine and Leiter make 32 starts each? Can Seo or Heilman step it up to the next level? Will Looper be able to handle New York after he blows a couple of save opportunities?
SP – Kevin Millwood
I think most people thought that 2003 would be a breakout season for Kevin Millwood, but it really was just a very average season. He was14-12 with a 4.01 ERA. He did pitch 222 innings (the fourth time in five seasons that he has pitched more than 210 innings), and struck out 169 strikeouts (almost 7 per 9 innings). The highlight obviously was his early season no-hitter. I would expect Millwood to settle down and pitch more like he did in 2002 when he was 18-8 with a 3.24 ERA for the Braves. If he can do that, he’s worth a 3rd round pick. If you don’t think he will wait until the 5th round.
SP – Randy Wolf
Wolf also had a somewhat off year. His ERA was up at 4.23, but he still was 16-10. In 200 innings (the third time in four years he has hit that number), he struck out 177. He has been fairly consistent though in his five seasons with the Phillies. Expect his ERA to drop almost a run in 2004, which could mean 20 wins. Draft him around the 9th round.
SP – Vicente Padilla
After being in the bullpen in 2000 and 2001, Padilla entered the Phillies rotation in 2002. In each season since, he has started 32 games and been over 200 innings each season. Last year, his WHIP was just 1.25. He was 14-12 with a 3.62 ERA. Since becoming a starter, he has struck out less than 6 hitters per 9 innings. Padilla has been consistently good; draft him after the 14th round.
SP – Eric Milton
2003 was a lost season for Milton. Knee surgery in March cost him all but 3 games in September. In his three games, he was 1-0 with a WHIP of 0.94 an ERA of 2.65 and an opponent’s batting average of .234. Of course, two of those games were against the Tigers. Twins fans, including myself, hate to see him leave. Remember, it was a bad knee that kept him out, not his arm. Assuming his knee is back to 100%, I think Milton will have his best season yet. Of course, we are talking about a pitcher who in 6 big league seasons, has career number of 57-51 with a 4.76 ERA. I predict big things for Milton in 2004 though, so don’t be afraid to draft him around Round 15.
SP – Brett Myers
After being highly touted, Myers came up in 2002 and was 4-5 with a 4.25 ERA. Last year, he was in the rotation full-time, pitching 193 innings in 32 starts. He went 14-9 with a 4.43 ERA. He struck out 6 2/3 batters out every nine innings. He was taken care of too, averaging just 94 pitches per start. I expect that Myers will progress well in 2004 and is worth drafting in the 16th round.
Closer – Billy Wagner
I love watching Billy Wagner pitch. He has no second pitch. He just throws 100 mph fastballs and says, “Hit this.” It usually works because not many actually hit it. In 78 games in Houston last year, he was 1-4 with a 1.78 ERA. He had 44 saves and only blew three opportunities. His WHIP was 0.87 and opponents hit just .169 off him. In 86 innings, he struck out 105 batters, an average of 11 batters every nine innings. That is a huge number, but it is actually more than a strikeout less than his career average of 12.4 K per nine innings. From 1997-1999, he averaged over 14.5 K per 9 innings. Remarkable! I think that he is the next closer to go after Gagne and Smoltz. Take him in the 5th round.
Closer – Tim Worrell
When Rob Nen went down last year with an injury, the Giants went to Worrell as their closer. He did well! He went 4-4 with 38 saves and a 2.87 ERA. Opponents hit .246 off him and his WHIP was 1.30. For his career, he averages 7 strikeouts every nine innings. Unless he becomes the closer, his value is pretty low. However, how many closers last the whole year? If there is a set up man ready to close if needed, it is Worrell. May be worth drafting in the last rounds.
One 2 Watch – Bud Smith
Bud Smith had arm problems and was out the entire 2003 season (some rehab outings). He is best remembered for throwing a no-hitter for the Cardinals in 2001. He struggled after that, but still had the talent to be good If any of the starters go down, Smith could get another shot. Don’t draft him.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Millwood, Wolf, and well, the whole rotation, plus Wagner and Worrell.
The Bad – Nothing really .
The Question Marks – What can Milton do and can he stay healthy? Is this rotation worth all the money?
Well, that is it for Part 11 of my Fantasy Baseball Preview. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. The same format will be used tomorrow when I discuss the NL West pitching staffs. For those looking forward to anything other than player analysis, just remember that tomorrow will be the final posting in the series! Please let me know what you think. Any comments or suggestions would be welcomed! E-mail me.
Yesterday, Baseball America released their Top 10 Twins Prospects list online. Here is that list (with my rankings in parentheses):
1.) Joe Mauer (1)
2.) Justin Morneau (2)
3.) Matt Moses (6)
4.) JD Durbin (3)
5.) Jesse Crain (4)
6.) Jason Bartlett (9)
7.) Denard Span (13)
8.) Jason Kubel (8)
9.) Grant Balfour (5)
10.) Michael Restovich (12)
I think this is a pretty good list. Be sure also to check out a Baseball America Chat with Josh Boyd, who was involved in developing the Twins prospect list. He answered 45 questions about the Twins minor league system. It is an incredible read. For instance, you will notice that my choices as the Twins #7 (Boof Bonser) and #10 (Francisco Liriano) prospects are not included in Baseball America’s. Well, here is one of the questions, with Boyd’s response:
Josh Boyd: They are in the second group of 10, which tells you a lot about how strong the Twins system is. Both Bonser and Liriano would've made the Giants top 10. With Bonser, though, the Twins have many similar arms with a little higher ceiling and Liriano, who might have the best arm in the system just needs to stay healthy. The Twins saw him up to 98 mph in instructional league before trading for him
There are questions about almost any prospect in the Twins organization, from Joe Mauer to Angel Guzman, to Matt Moses and Evan Meek. Check it out!
ROMERO SIGNS – The Twins and JC Romero settled before their arbitration hearing. Romero had been asking for $925,000; the Twins countered by offering $650,000. They settled at $820,000.
And on that note, I will call it another day. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me. Have a great Tuesday!
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