Wednesday, February 23, 2005
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
National League East Hitters
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be providing a team-by-team look at many of the major league players from a fantasy baseball perspective. I want to do this 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.
However, I do understand not everyone gets into fantasy sports, and that’s OK too. I do not think that my "analysis" will be too "statty" so it should be enjoyable for any baseball fan to read.
Another point to mention before getting started is that there are many forms of fantasy baseball. There are the traditional rotisserie leagues, 5x5 leagues, head-to-head, simulation, keeper leagues, American League Only, National League only and many more. Most leagues probably vary in subtle ways. I am not going to try to analyze for any specific variety. I will just give my opinions on the players. When I project a round-range where the player could be drafted, it will be based on a 30 round major league draft.
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). 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.
If you've missed the first four pieces to this project, check them out here:
Part 1 - American League Central Hitters
Part 2 - American League East Hitters
Part 3 - American League West Hitters
Part 4 - National League Central Hitters
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST HITTERS
The National League Eastern Division should be a very competitive. The Atlanta Braves have won 13 consecutive division titles, and they should still be pretty good. It is really hard to pick against them. The Florida Marlins are just a season removed from winning a World Series Championship, and I think they have a better team now. The Montreal Expos are now the Washington Nationals. They have made a lot of changes in an attempt to draw interest in their new city. The Phillies were supposed to be the team to beat a year ago, and that didn’t happen. But I am developing a theory that many players and teams that have high expectations and perform poorly one year often come back with a strong season the following year. If that is the case, the Phillies might be worth watching. And finally, the NY Mets added a couple of big names and gave them big money, but will it be enough to be a player in the NL East? Well, I am going to give my season predictions closer to the season, but I guess that’s why they play the games anyway. 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.
C – Johnny Estrada
Estrada came to the Braves from the Phillies in the controversial Kevin Millwood trade before the 2003 season. Estrada went on to have a huge season at AAA in 2003 before a couple of call-ups. But still, Estrada was a 27 year old catcher getting his first real shot at a full-time job. There must be a reason for that, right? Well, I think that the trade may become known as the Johnny Estrada trade after 2004. In 134 games, Estrada became an All-Star and finished the season hitting .314/.378/.450 with 36 doubles, 9 homers and 76 RBI. I would expect more of the same in 2005, so take Estrada in the 9th round.
1B – Adam LaRoche/Julio Franco
Peter Gammons loves mentioning LaRoche’s .944 second half OPS when talking about break-out players in 2005. For the season, his first look at big league pitching, LaRoche hit .278/.333/.438 with 27 doubles, 13 homers and 45 RBI. And that was in just 110 games, so those numbers should all go up. LaRoche will likely only hit against right-handed pitches, so although I would not expect that OPS, an .870 OPS would not be bad. LaRoche is 25. Julio Franco is 26. Franco will likely only play against lefties and in pinch-hitting situations, but he’s worth the mention just because of how amazing he is. Last year, he got 320 at bats in 125 games. He hit .309/.378/.471 with 18 doubles, 6 homers and 57 RBI. Draft LaRoche in the 18th round. Don’t take Franco.
2B – Marcus Giles
Giles missed about 2 months last season with a broken collarbone, suffered in a collision with Andruw Jones. He still put up good numbers hitting .311/.378/.443 with 22 doubles and 8 RBI. His power numbers were significantly down in 2004 (SLG% dropped from .526 to .443). I admit that some of that could be caused by the injury. That is why I would expect numbers somewhere in the middle. That makes him worth a 10th round pick.
3B – Chipper Jones
Chipper Jones went into the season as the Braves starting left-fielder. However, the struggles of Mark Derosa forced the move back to 3B. I think it is fair to say that 2004 was a disappointment for the 32 year old Jones. He hit just .248 with a .362 on-base percentage (the first time he had been under .295 and .370 since 1995). His 22 doubles were the first time he had been under 29 since 1995. With 96 RBI, it was the first time he had less than 100 since 1995. Of course, a big reason for this is that he played in just 137 games, the lowest number since he missed all of the 1994 season. I would expect another solid season from Jones in 2005, something like .280 with 30 homers and 110 RBI. Because of his multi-position eligibility, he is worthy of a 6th round pick.
SS – Rafael Furcal
If Furcal wasn’t so valuable at the top of the lineup, he would have been gone long ago because of his off-field problems. However, Furcal and his speed make for a very productive player. In 2004, he hit .277/.344/.414 with 24 doubles, 5 triples, 14 homers and 59 RBI. He also stole 29 bases. These are all very typical numbers for Furcal over his first four seasons. These are the numbers that I think Twins fans had hoped they would get from Cristian Guzman. Assuming he stays out of trouble, Furcal should put up very good numbers, making him worth a 12th round pick.
LF – Brian Jordan/Ryan Langerhans
Brian Jordan will be 38 years old this season. He will be back for his second go ‘round with the Braves. The veteran has played 66 and 61 games the last two years because of injuries. For his career, Jordan has hit .284/.336/.462. In healthy years, he has hit 17-25 homers and driven in anywhere from 75 to 110 runs. However, he likely will not stay healthy for the full season. Actually, Jordan has proven to be a great leader and would probably best serve the team as the fourth outfielder. Ryan Langerhans will likely be given a chance for plenty of playing time. In 2004, he played his first full season at AAA (he had cups of coffee with the Braves in 2002 and 2003). At Richmond, he hit .298/.397/.518 with 34 doubles, 20 homers and 72 RBI in 135 games. The 25 year old is ready for the shot. I probably wouldn’t draft either. See how camp goes and if Langerhans looks like he’ll get full time, take a shot with him in the 28th round.
CF – Andruw Jones
I think that it is to the point where we can finally admit that Jones will never be a .300 hitter again like he was in 2000. The career .268 hitter hit .303 that year, but his highest average other than that year was .277. But, despite his deficiencies, Jones is still a very good fantasy player because of his extra-base power. Over his last seven seasons, he has averaged 32 doubles, 32 homers and 98 RBI. The 2nd best defensive center-fielder in baseball is worthy of a 9th round pick.
RF – Raul Mondesi
With two big question marks in the Braves outfield, they signed two big question marks in Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi. Mondesi has been a very good big league hitter (or at least a good source of power) since he won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1994. However, he has always had a coachability question surrounding him and last year, he was dropped by the Pirates after just 26 games under some strange conditions. And then he signed with the Angels later, played in 8 games and suffered a season-ending injury. Can he fit into the Braves’ system? If he can just control himself, he would be worth the risk in the 20th round.
One 2 Watch – Andy Marte/Jeff Franceour
The Braves top two prospects are also two of the top prospects in all of baseball (likely both Top 15). Marte is a 3B who, since Chipper Jones is back at the position, might be moved to the OF. That is fine because the 21 year old would probably be best served to spend a year at AAA, especially given the position change. Last year at AA, Marte hit .269/.364/.525 with 28 doubles, 23 homers and 68 RBI in 107 games. The lone problem I see is the 105 strikeouts. Jeff Franceor is also 21. He was the team’s first round pick in 2002. Last year, he started the season with 87 games at Hi-A Myrtle Beach where he hit .293/.346/.508 with 26 doubles, 15 homers and 52 RBI. He moved up to AA Greenville and played in 18 games, hitting .197. He did hit 3 homers. There was talk in the offseason of bringing him to the big leagues, but clearly he should start the year at AA again in 2004. Both of these guys could be up by September though.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Jones-Chipper variety, Furcal. The futures of Marte and Franceour.
The Bad – Big question marks at the corner outfield positions.
The Questions – Can Chipper regain his glory or will he slide further? Can Estrada duplicate his 2004 numbers? Can Furcal stay out of trouble? How will the corner outfield positions play out?
C – Paul Lo Duca
Lo Duca was not happy about his trade from the Dodgers to the Marlins at the trade deadline. To be honest, he didn’t play well in Florida after getting off to another great start that led to his first inclusion on the All-Star team. (The Marlins did give the 32 year old catcher a three year deal) Combined last year, he hit .286/.338/.421. It is remarkable how similar those were to his career numbers of .285/.340/.424. He doesn’t get on-base a lot. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power. With his age, I would predict a drop in performance. Wait until the 16th round to draft him.
1B – Carlos Delgado
Carlos Beltran got all of the publicity as the big offseason free agent, but when you look at actual productivity, Delgado has been head and shoulders better than Beltran. That is why I believe that this is a great signing for the Marlins. In his nine full seasons in Toronto, Delgado averaged 38 doubles, 36 homers and 114 RBI. His career OPS is .948. The concern with Delgado is the fact that in the Marlins history, just one player has reached 30 homers in a season. I think with the strong lineup around him, he will hit that number, and he will likely drive in 120 runs. That makes him worth a 3rd round pick.
2B – Luis Castillo
The 29 year old Castillo was a fantasy stud from 1999-2002 when he averaged 41 stolen bases a season. He also hit over .300 in three of those years. The last two years, he has had 21 stolen bases each year. Not bad numbers, but certainly not enough to make up for his complete lack of power. Castillo is a key cog to the team at the top of the order, getting on base. Last year, he hit .291/.373/.348 with 12 doubles, 7 triples and 2 homers, to go with 47 RBI, very typical numbers. I would take him in about the 17th round.
3B – Mike Lowell
Lowell stayed healthy again in 2004 after missing more than 30 games in 2003. In 158 games, he hit .293/.365/.505 with 44 doubles, 27 homers and 85 RBI (which is actually 20 less than the year before, in 28 more games). Those numbers, minus the strangely low RBI total, are very typical, so I think he’s worth grabbing by the 9th round.
SS – Alex Gonzalez
The Marlins Alex Gonzalez is a no-hit, good glove shortstop who has been the team’s starter for the past six seasons. At 28 years old, he is in his ‘prime’, but I’m afraid said prime is eerily similar to those of Luis Rivas. However, at least Gonzalez has shown good extra-base hit power the last couple of seasons. In 2004, he hit .232/.270/.419 with 30 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBI. That makes him worth a 23rd round pick.
LF – Juan Encarnacion
Encarnacion was also involved in the big six-player, trade-deadline deal between the Marlins and Dodgers. He had spent part of 2002 and all of 2003 with the Marlins before, so they knew what they were getting. And that is a guy who doesn’t hit for much average, doesn’t get on-base a lot and hits for a little power. Combined last year, he hit .236/.299/.405 with 30 doubles, 16 homers and 65 RBI in 135 games. To me, Juan Encarnacion is the type of guy that you don’t draft, but when you need a replacement outfielder, you don’t mind sticking him in your lineup.
CF – Juan Pierre
Juan Pierre has played in 162 games each of the last two years. He is a great leadoff hitter. Last year, he hit .326/.374/.407 with 221 hits, 22 doubles, 12 triples, 3 homers, 100 runs scored and 49 RBI. What makes Pierre valuable in 5x5 leagues are stolen bases. In the past four years, he has had 46, 47, 65 and 45 steals. I would expect Pierre’s best season, topping many of his 2004 numbers. You could take him by the 7th round, but could probably still get him a couple rounds later.
RF – Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera seems older because he became so good so fast, and was able to produce in the playoffs as a 20 year old. But he is still just 21 years old and coming off an incredible 2004, his first full season. In 160 games, he hit .294/.366/.512 with 31 doubles, 33 homers and 112 RBI. Let me repeat that he is just 21. The comparisons to Pujols are not only fair, but very much feasible. Consider taking him by the 4th round.
One 2 Watch – Jeff Conine
Mr. Marlin is almost without a position, although he will likely get a lot of time in place of Encarnacion (probably in place of Encarnacion). The 38 year old Conine played in 140 games for the team last year. He hit .280/.340/.432 with 35 doubles, 14 homers and 83 RBI. He’s probably not worth drafting either, depending on his playing time.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Cabrera, Delgado, Lowell
The Bad – Gonzalez.
Question Marks – How will Delgado adjust to the National League and the ball park? Will Pierre and Castillo continue to steal bases? How good can Cabrera be?
New York Mets
C – Mike Piazza
Piazza was able to return from a lost 2003 season to play in 129 games in 2004. He played in 68 games at 1B and 50 as a catcher. He will be the Mets primary catcher in 2004. However, he will also be 36 years old. Last year, he hit .266/.362/.444 with 21 doubles, 20 homers and 54 RBI. It was easily his career’s worst season (.806 OPS versus career OPS of .947). Sadly, this is how most 35 year old catchers turn out. Piazza was amazing for a dozen years, but age has caught up. Maybe there will be less pressure on him this year and he’ll have a good comeback year. I wouldn’t draft him before the 13th round.
1B – Doug Mientkiewicz
Twins fans really liked Doug Mientkiewicz. He played hard, he was successful, he is a genius with the glove at 1B, he was a great quote. But the true colors of a person often come out when there is adversity. I think it’s fair to say that the Mientkiewicz that Twins fans saw in 2004 was not a good representation. The fact is that in 2001 and 2003, Mientkiewicz was a good offensive contributor. In those two years, he averaged .303/.390/.457 with 39 doubles and 13 homers. In 2002, he hit .261. In 2004, with the Twins, he was hitting just .246 when he was traded. And then he hit .215/.286/.316. Not good. But, there are traits to Mientkiewicz that make the move to the Mets a good thing. He has excellent plate discipline. He is a smart ball player (meaning, if he hits 8th in the lineup, he would understand the pitcher hits behind him). He has good bat control and puts the ball in play. His biggest thing though is his defense. Because he will likely play every day, draft him in the 22nd round and hope he continues his success in odd-numbered seasons.
2B – Kazuo Matsui
I think it is fair to say that the rookie season of Kaz Matsui was a disappointment. He played in just 114 games (back injury) and hit .272/.331/.396 with 32 doubles, 7 homers and 44 RBI. He did steal 14 bases too. This year, he will be moving to 2B, giving him eligibility at two positions. I would also expect him to be vastly improved in his second season. I would take him in the 15th round.
3B – David Wright
Wright comes from the same area as mega-prospect BJ Upton and the Twins Michael Cuddyer. The 22 year old was a solid prospect heading into 2004, but exploded with a great season. He started the year at AA and hit .363/.467/.619 with 27 doubles, 10 homers and 40 RBI (with 20 SB) in just 60 games. He moved up to AAA and in 31 games hit .298/.388/.579 with 8 doubles, 8 homers and 17 RBI. Then came the call-up to the Mets. He played in 69 games and hit an impressive .293/.332/.525 with 17 doubles, 14 homers and 40 RBI. Wright will be the Mets 3B and should improve on his numbers making him worth a 12th round pick (and he could be a steal there).
SS – Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes and Matsui are switching positions, so Reyes will be back at his natural SS position. Reyes was one of baseball’s bright young stars when he hit .307 in 69 games as a 20 year old in 2003. Last year was a disappointment as he only played in 55 games because of a broken fibula. He hit just .255/.271/.373. That’s right, 5 walks in 229 plate appearances. He will have to improve his plate discipline to get on base more. However, he will, and he’ll hit for a better average and importantly in fantasy circles, he’ll steal a lot of bases. Draft him in the 13th round.
LF – Cliff Floyd
Cliff Floyd has come so close to being a top-level big league player. The only thing that hurts him every season is the injury bug. In his 12 big league seasons, he has played in 150 or more games just once. Last year, he played in 113 games. In that time, Floyd hit .260/.352/.462 with 18 homers and 63 RBI. He has been involved in a lot of trade rumors. Because of the injuries, I would hesitate to draft him before the 21st round.
CF – Carlos Beltran
Seven years, $119 million. Scott Boras is good! Carlos Beltran is very good. He is a definite five-tool specimen! But, he earned an extra $25-$30 million with his incredible playoff performance. For the regular season, he split time between the Royals and Astros and hit a combined .267/.367/.548 with 36 doubles, 9 homers, 38 homers and 104 RBI. He also stole 42 bases in 45 attempts. He is a career .845 OPS guy, whose OPS have been .911 and .915 the last two years. Very good, but $119 million worth of solid? I think not! That said, in standard 5x5 leagues, he’s likely a Top 3 overall pick. In production leagues, I personally would rather someone else take him too early, but if he’s available in the mid-2nd round, I would jump on it.
RF – Mike Cameron
There is a very good chance that the 32 year old Cameron will be traded before the season starts. In 2004, Cameron had a very typical year for himself. He hit .231/.319/.479 with 30 doubles, 30 homers and 76 RBI. His career averages are .248/.340/.440. He is still a great defensive centerfield, but I would place him well below Andruw Jones in terms of fantasy. Take him in the 14th round.
Two 2 Watch – Miguel Cairo/Jason Phillips
Cairo was the starting 2B for the Yankees last year. Phillips and Piazza have been sharing time between 1B and C the last couple of seasons. Cairo can hit, but I was surprised he signed with the Mets to be a utility infielder and insurance in case of injury to Matsui or Reyes. Mientkiewicz will likely lose some at bats to Phillips throughout the season, and Piazza will likely need plenty of time off as well. Neither is worth drafting.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Beltran, Wright.
The Bad – Mientkiewicz, Floyd’s injury history.
The Question Marks – Can Piazza and Floyd stay healthy? How good will David Wright be? How will Beltran handle the media when he and the team struggle? Can Matsui and Reyes stay healthy?
C – Mike Lieberthal
Lieberthal has played in 130 or more games the last three seasons. He has been very solid offensively. Last year, he hit .271/.335/.447 with 31 doubles, 17 homers and 61 RBI. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 30 doubles and 15 RBI. But again, he is a 33 year old catcher, meaning it is possible a quick decline could be in his future. I see slightly lower numbers, but he is still worth a 16th round pick.
1B – Jim Thome
I think it is fair to say that, like the Phillies, Thome didn’t have a great year. But then you look at his numbers again, and he hit .274/.396/.581 with 28 doubles, 42 homers and 105 RBI. Those are anything but bad numbers. Thome can be counted on for 30 doubles, 40 homers, 100 RBI, 100 walks and 140 strikeouts. I would actually expect him to be above each of those numbers in 2005. So again, I see him as a great second round pick.
2B – Chase Utley
Utley finally gets his starting gig. We think. Last year, Utley started at AAA, but he is just too good for that level. Because Placido Polanco continued to play well, and David Bell did enough to keep playing, so Polanco was essentially a utility player. He got into 94 games and hit .266/.308/.468 with 11 doubles, 13 homers and an impressive 57 RBI. Many project that he’ll hit 25-30 homers a year at 2B. I wonder if it will be in 2005, but if he comes close, he is worth a 7th round pick. But I would probably wait until the 10th.
3B – David Bell/Placido Polanco
After an absolutely horrific 85 game/.195 average 2003, Bell came back with a fairly strong 2004. In 143 games, he hit .291/.363/.458 with 33 doubles, 18 homers and 77 RBI. If he duplicates that, he’s worth a 22nd round pick. But he won’t, because the solid Placido Polanco will take some playing time from him. In 126 games, Polanco hit .298/.345/.441 with 21 doubles, 17 homers and 55 RBI. He’s just one of those very solid players who could just be a utility player with this team. Because of his uncertain playing time, I would not draft him.
SS – Jimmy Rollins
Rollins won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2001. Then he had two fairly poor seasons where his batting average was awful. Last year, he came back with the best season of his four year career. In 154 games, he hit .289/.348/.455 with 190 hits, 43 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers and 73 RBI. His speed game came back with 30 stolen bases (in 39 attempts), after he had just 20 (and was caught 12 times) in 2003. 2004 numbers would make him a 7th round pick in a 5x5 league, but wait until the 14th in a production league.
LF – Pat Burrell
Burrell had a little bit of a comeback season in 2004 after his disastrous 2003 (which would have been virtually impossible not to improve from!). He played in just 127 games because of a wrist injury. He hit .257/.365/.445 with 17 doubles, 27 homers and 84 RBI. He does walk a lot. He also strikes out a lot. I would like to see him hit more doubles to tell me that he is back to the hitter he once was. His swing is so long and slow that there are a lot of holes in it. But from a fantasy perspective, his numbers are decent. He is still worth taking in the 23rd round.
CF – Kenny Lofton
The Phillies gave up a lot in Felix Rodriguez to get Lofton, who played in just 83 games with the Yankees last season. In 276 at bats, Lofton hit .275/.346/.395 with 10 doubles, 7 triples, 3 homers and 18 RBI. The 37 year old speedster had just 7 stolen bases. However, with the Phils, he will be the primary center-fielder and leadoff hitter. Given more consistent playing time, I would expect to see a far better Lofton, with many more stolen bases. He should score a lot of runs. I would consider drafting Lofton, but not until the 25th round.
RF – Bobby Abreu
Abreu is one of the most consistent, underrated players in baseball today. In his seven seasons with the Phillies, he has hit .308 with an average of 104 runs, 41 doubles, 23 homers, 92 RBI, 106 walks and 29 stolen bases. Last year, the 30 year old hit .301/.428/.544 with 47 doubles, 30 homers and 105 RBI. He walked 127 times, and he stole 40 bases. In a 5x5 league, Abreu should be a first round pick. In other leagues, if he’s available in the late second round, be thrilled!
One 2 Watch – Ryan Howard
Howard was the Phillies 2001 5th round draft pick out of SW Missouri State. He came into the season never having played above Class A ball. He started 2004 with AA Reading and hit .297/.386/.647 with 18 doubles, 37 homers and 102 RBI in 102 games. He moved up to AAA and hit .270/.362/.604 with 10 doubles, 9 homers and 29 RBI. That all earned him a big league call-up in September. He hit .282/.333/.564 with 5 doubles and two homers in 19 games. So, for the year, he had 33 doubles and 48 homers with 136 RBI. The lone problem for the 25 year old lefty is that he plays first base, where Thome is cemented into the lineup. So, in the fall league, he played some of the outfield. He has lots of options left, so he likely will start the season at AAA, but don’t be surprised to see him called up soon.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Thome and Abreu.
The Bad – Burrell and Lofton.
The Question Marks – Will Utley be given the 2B job, and how big can his numbers be? Which Rollins and Bell will show up? How long before Ryan Howard gets called up, and how will he be played?
C – Brian Schneider
Schneider finally was given full-time catching duties in 2004. In 135 games, he hit .257/.325/.329 with 20 doubles, 12 homers and 49 RBI. These are average, at best, numbers for a catcher. He is 28, so it is possible that he could be in for his best year. I wouldn’t count on it, so wait until the 23rd round to take him.
1B – Nick Johnson
Did you know that Nick Johnson is still just 26 years old? He has been around for a long time and spent much of it in the New York spotlight. He has also been hurt so frequently that you would think he was older. Last year, he played in just 73 games because of a broken cheekbone. He hit just .251/.359/.398 with 16 doubles, 7 homers and 33 RBI. If he stays healthy, I would look for a .280/.400/.430 type of season with 35 doubles, 15 homers and 80 RBI. As a corner infielder, I still wouldn’t take him before the 20th round.
2B – Jose Vidro
Vidro signed a nice fat four year contract to stay with the then Expos. The move shocked me. Soon after, he suffered a knee injury so he played in just 110 games last year. He hit .294/.367/.454 with 24 doubles, 14 RBI and 60 RBI. He had not hit under .300 in five seasons. He is just such a solid player and as a 2B, he can be very valuable. Assuming he’s healthy, you can take Vidro in the 8th round.
3B – Vinny Castilla
The 37 year old Castilla had another huge year in 2004, as a Colorado Rockie. He hit .271/.332/.535 with 43 doubles, 35 homers and 131 RBI. Incredible numbers, but the Coors factor definitely played a role. His OPS since 2002 has gone from .616 to 771 to 867. I would expect that Castilla will fall somewhere in that .750 OPS range, meaning his power numbers will be greatly reduced. Not surprising. But he is still worth a flyer in the 17th round.
SS – Cristian Guzman
Twins fans will tell you that we’ve been waiting to see Guzman bust out. There is no questioning his athleticism and talent. He just has never put it all together. And, he doesn’t even hit a lot of triples anymore either. He takes such a wimpy, choppy swing. If he gets away from Scott Ullger and a batting coach just lets him swing away, I think that Guzman can have a bust-out 2005 season. It is actually interesting to see how consistent Guzman has been throughout his career, with the exception of his one good year back in 2001! If you look at his numbers over the past three years, they are remarkably similar. His batting averages have been .273, .268, and .274. His on-base percentages have been .292, .311, and .309. His slugging percentages were .385, .365, and .384. His OPS has been .677, .676, and .693. Now again, I think getting away from Ullger, combined with this being his age-27 season, I do expect Guzman to have a very good year, maybe upping his OPS toward .770. Nationals fans, and their pitchers, will really appreciate his defense though! If I’m right and he does have another solid year, he’s still not worth taking until closer to the 15th round.
LF – Brad Wilkerson
Wilkerson may be more underrated (And certainly less known) than even Bobby Abreu. In 2004, Wilkerson had a great year. In 160 games, he hit .255/.374/.498 with 39 doubles and 32 homers. Somehow, he had just 67 RBI, proving how much the performance of teammates affect the RBI numbers. He walked 106 times. Yes, he strikes out a lot too. And, he even stole 13 bases. Expect continued improvement from the former college pitcher. He also has position eligibility at 1B, making him more valuable. Consider him in the 8th round.
CF – Endy Chavez/Termell Sledge
Chavez played in 132 games last year as the Expos primary CF. He is a 27 year old whose speed is his attribute. He hit .277/.318/.371 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 5 homers and 34 RBI. His value comes from the 34 stolen bases. Sledge played in 133 games a year ago, primarily in the corner outfield positions. He hit .269/.336/.462 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 15 homers and 62 RBI. With a couple of new acquisitions, I don’t know how this position will play out. Johnson’s healthy plays a factor, because if he gets hurt, Wilkerson moves to 1B and Sledge will play LF. I guess I would consider drafting both of them AFTER the 25th round.
RF – Jose Guillen
The 28 year old Guillen has some issues. Issues that meant that a guy who hit .294/.352/.497 with 28 doubles, 27 homes and 104 RBI in the season’s first 148 games was cut from the AL West Angels at the end of the season for actions detrimental to team. So, the Nationals decided to take a chance on him and his incredible talent. If he plays the full year, he’s worth a 6th round pick. But there is a lot of risk.
One 2 Watch – J.J. Davis
Davis is a big, 6-5, 250 pound outfielder who I thought was going to have a big year with the Pirates last year. He was hurt and barely played. But he played winter ball this offseason and put on a power-hitting display. He could factor into some outfield playing time, if he gets a chance. Don’t draft him, but if there is an injury, he could get a chance.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good – Vidro, Wilkerson and Guillen.
The Bad – Catcher and Shorstop.
The Question Marks – Can Johnson ever stay healthy? How will playing in Washington affect player’s statistics? Can Guillen be a good teammate? How good can Wilkerson become?
Well, that is it for Part 5 of my Fantasy Baseball Preview. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Next up in the series, we will discuss the hitters of the NL West. Please let me know what you think. Any comments or suggestions would be welcomed! E-mail me.
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
It is now Season 4 of American Idol. So far, winners Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantassia Barrino have all been very successful. But so have Clay Aiken, Josh Gracin, Diana Degarmo and other contestants. Like Independent sports leagues, I love the concept of this show; giving people who wouldn't otherwise a chance to make it big.
There are a number of changes this year in the format of the show. Many were seen in previous weeks. The main one this year is that there will be six mean and six women in the final competition. Right now, there are 12 men and 12 women still in the competition. Monday night, the 12 men each sang one song. America was asked to vote for their favorite. Last night, 12 women will each sing one song. America will again vote for their favorite. Tonight, the two men and the two women who receive the fewest votes will be eliminated from the show. This will happen the next two weeks again to get down to the final 12 (6 men, 6 women).
Anyway, as I have in the past, I will critique each of the contestants. What I do is watch the show with a little notepad and jot down a couple of thoughts as I hear them sing. I will post those brief thoughts, and then I will conclude by ranking the performances. Obviously this is strictly one person's opinion, mine, and not everyone needs to agree with me. You will find that in some cases, I completely agree with the judges. You will also note that there are a few occasions when I completely disagree with them. So, let's get to it, but if you have any questions or comments, please be sure to e-mail me.
Today, I will quickly analyze the performances of the 12 women. And to briefly answer the question that I am sure everyone is wondering: Yes, I completely agree with what Simon said about Amanda Avila, even if it was completely rude and uncalled for. I would like to meet her! But, Carrie Underwood is the one that I think that I would want to marry. Here are some more thoughts on the singers. I didn't even know a few of the songs, so I won't provide all titles.
By the way, check out this article for an interesting tidbit on each of the 24 finalists. For instance, Amanda Avila sang backup for Smokey Robinson. Mikahla Gordon sang for President Clinton at the White House. Surprisingly, Constantine Maroulis toured internationally, playing the lead role in the musical "Rent."
Vonzell Solomon - Heat Wave
A few pitchy spots, but good range and great strength.
Amanda Avila - How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?
nearly flawless. Simon wasn't as impressed with her vocals, but commented, "I want to come back as your microphone." That was completely uncalled for, rude and politically incorrect. OK, let's call it what it was, harassment. I wonder if there won't be discussion on that in the coming days.
(article on her in Nevada Appeal) (This picture is from when Amanda appeared on Star Search two years ago. She looks better now!
JaNay Castine - I'll Love You Forever
Scary when looking at camera. Very rigid motions, voice was very shaky. Zero stage presence. Looked scared. (she is just 17)
Carrie Underwood - Could Have Been So Beautiful
Great song, great for her, she was able to show off her range, but she was great. I could have listened to her performance with the TV muted and thought it was wonderful though!
Sarah Mather - Get Read (Here I Come)
Little range, she was good but nothing special.
Melinda Lira - Cuz I'm Your Lady
Here is where I need to discuss the judges. I may make this point throughout the season. But what is their purpose. You would like to think that they are impartial in their comments, but we have seen over and over that it not the case. In this case, each judge basically said that she was good, maybe picked a wrong song, etc. In my opinion, this was one of the worst performances I've seen. Yes, even worse than JaNay Castine's... OK, maybe not. But she was awkward just moving around. I honestly thought it sounded like English was her second language (which I don't think it is). I thought she was really bad. But the judges said nice things, so some will likely vote for her and keep her around.
Nadia Turner - There's the Power
excellent, deep, low, strong voice.
Celena Rae - I Will Love Again
Not bad, but weak start and missed a bunch of notes throughout.
Mikalah Gordon - My Man and Me
quirky voice (Part Southern Belle, part New York City represent, part Fran Drescher). Or, maybe she was just slightly off key. She's certainly not short on self-confidence. She's good, but this was far from her best.
Lindsey Cardinale - ?
Nearly Flawless performance, but didn't show much range.
Jessica Sierra - Take a Look at Me Now
kind of a country tone to her. She was great, until she got to the part where she could have showcased her voice, and range, and she missed bad!
Aloha Mischeaux - Work It Out
excellent vocally, definitely worked the stage. That wasn't really a talent show type of song though.
I will rank the performers from #1 (best) to #12 (worst). In doing that, I would be saying that my choices for who should be eliminated would be numbers 11 and 12.
1.) Carrie Underwood - She is the perfect Idol package
2.) Amanda Avila
3.) Nadia Turner
4.) Aloha Mischeaux
5.) Cierra Rae
6.) Lindsey Cardinale
7.) Vonzell Solomon
8.) Mikalah Gordon
9.) Sarah Mather
10.) Jessica Sierra
11.) Melinda Lira
12.) JaNay Castine - OK, yeah, she was the worst!
So, by that, I would have to guess that Melinda Lira and JaNay Castine will be the first two women eliminated. Check back tomorrow when I will analyze tonight's results show. My guess is that the four that I would want to be eliminated will probably continue and a couple that I really liked will be eliminated. Stop by and find out. Again, if you have any thoughts, please e-mail me.
And on that note, I wish you a good day!. If you have any questions or comments on anything you have read above, please e-mail me.
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