Monday, February 27, 2006
WEEKEND THOUGHTS AND LINKS
American League Central Pitchers
Good morning everyone!
Today, I will dive into the AL Central division pitchers in Part 8 of my Fantasy Perspective series. If you would like more detail on why I want to do this series, please click here. Following the AL Central pitchers, I have a LOT of links to great articles on the Twins from the entire weekend. They were posted throughout the weekend, but I know that many people do not get a chance to read my site over the weekend, so I thought I would keep them here. Also, there are several new links that had not been published until now.
If you have any questions or comments about what I write here, or regarding your league, please e-mail me. If you would be fun, feel free to ask questions or comment on anything down below in the Comments section.
Disclaimer: What you read below are simply my opinions. Obviously I have no knowledge of what will happen in the 2006 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.
To this point, I have only done my look at the:
Top 20 Impact Rookie Hitters for 2006
Top 20 Impact Rookie Pitchers for 2006
American League West Hitters
American League Central Hitters
American League East Hitters
National League West Hitters
National League Central Hitters
National League East Hitters
American League West Pitchers
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL PITCHERS
The AL Central has the ability to be pretty good in 2006, especially in terms of pitching. The White Sox staff showed what they are capable of in the playoffs last fall. They added Javier Vazquez to the rotation meaning that Brandon McCarthy will have to continue to wait his turn. The Indians lost Kevin Millwood and Scott Elarton and replaced them with Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson. The Tigers added Kenny Rogers to their rotation and Todd Jones is their closer. The Royals made a few changes, but all second, or even third tier acquisitions. And the Twins remained much the same. They let Joe Mays go to open a rotation spot for either Scott Baker or Francisco Liriano. Kyle Lohse is back, but the Twins should have the best staff in the division.
So, lets 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.
Chicago White Sox
SP Mark Buehrle
In his five full big league seasons, he has averaged 34 starts, 234.2 innings pitched and 16 wins. Last year, he posted his lowest hit total, walks, home runs allowed, earned runs, and ERA. So, basically Buehrle has been very good, very consistent and very healthy. I think we can expect much of the same from Buehrle in 2006. How about 18-11 with a 3.52 ERA?
SP Freddy Garcia
I like to get on Garcia some for being soft and not being a big-time pitcher. But then you take a look at his numbers. His ERA has been under four the last two years, and four of the last six. He has pitched in over 200 innings each of the last four years. I would not put him in that upper echelon of AL Pitchers, but I also would not rank him any lower than Bartolo Colon either. How about 13-11 with an ERA of 4.02? I am a little alarmed by his drop-off in strikeouts, but he was able to overcome that as well.
SP Jose Contreras
Jose Contreras is an enigma, no doubt. He's also an enigma with a 96-98 mph fastball and plenty of breaking pitches to go with it. After a bad year split between the Yankees and White Sox in 2004, Contreras posted a 2005 with a 15-8 record and an ERA of 3.61. By season's end, Contreras was the staff ace and pitched Game 1 of each playoff series. But again, the question becomes, what will he do in 2006? Can he maintain the positive things from 2005? I actually think so, and I haven't read that many places. I don't believe that he will take it easy or regress. I think that he will be just as good, if not better and more consistent throughout the season. I would predict maybe an ERA around 3.33 and a record of 17-8?
SP Jon Garland
A couple of months ago, I posted the career stats of Garland before his breakout 2005 season. I compared it to what Kyle Lohse has done to this point in his career, and the numbers are almost identical, across the board. That gives you an idea of how frustrating Garland has been to White Sox fans. So, when he got off to a great start and was an All-Star, I figured that he was just running into a bit of luck. But then I saw him pitch against the Twins a couple of times and saw his fastball moving a lot and with some control as well as a nice slider/cutter. At that point, I realized that his 2005 season was legit. It is backed up by an 18-10 record with a solid ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP at 1.17. The big key to his improvement was his 40% drop in BB/9! Now, what can he do in 2006? Don't forget that I (and many others) said the same types of things about Esteban Loaiza after his 2003 season and he was bad in 2004! For Garland, I'll guess 14-12 with a 4.22 ERA.
SP Javier Vazquez
After being one of the better pitchers in the National League for four years, Vazquez was awful in his 2003 season with the Yankees. Last year, he was 11-15 with a 4.42 ERA in Arizona. But his 1.25 WHIP wasn't bad. His K/9 was up to just over eight again, although, is some of that a result of moving back to the National League and getting to face pitchers again? Probably. Vazquez may very well be the question mark for the Sox starting staff. Which pitcher is he? How healthy is he? He is now just 29 years old still, so if he is healthy, he can be good. However, I would agree that the move back to the American League will not help him at all. I'll say... 10-12 with a 4.82 ERA.
Closer Bobby Jenks
For those who subscribed and read ESPN the Magazine a few years ago, you may remember a cover article on Jenks. All I remember about the article was that it basically portrayed him as a hick, a drunk, and all-around idiot. There is a reason that the Angels just released him before the 2005 season started. But Ozzie Guillen took a chance on him, or at least on his 99 mph fastball and sharp slider. They sent him back to AA and put him in the bullpen. He became dominant. He was called up in August and recorded six saves and went 1-1 with a 2.75 ERA in 32 games. He was the closer when the Sox won the World Series. But I would be fairly hesitant to take Jenks and want to count on him in my draft. He is still just 23 years old. Maybe the bullpen is his thing. Maybe he is a ticking time bomb.
One 2 Watch Brandon McCarthy
Like Francisco Liriano with the Twins, 22 year old Brandon McCarthy is ready and deserving of a spot in the White Sox starting rotation. Unlike Liriano, the White Sox seem to be planning to use McCarthy out of the bullpen. Of course, we all know that most starting rotations will experience some injuries, so odds are that McCarthy will get plenty of starts over the year.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good - Buehrle, Contreras, McCarthy's future.
The Bad question marks in middle relief.
Three Questions Which Contreras will show up? Which Garland will show up? Which Vazquez, Garcia and Jenks will show up?
SP CC Sabathia
Last year, the large 6-7, 290 pound Carston Charles went 15-10 with a 4.03 ERA. Oh, the benefits of pitching with a powerful offense. Sabathia is generally considered a really good pitcher. I mean, he was named as a starter on the USA's WBC team. But, look beyond his career 67-45 record. In five years, he has just once had an ERA of under 4.00. He has only thrown over 200 innings once. He strikes out about 7 per nine innings. Is Sabathia a good pitcher? Yes. Is he great? I really don't think so. He's league average at best. However, again with a strong offense he could pick up a pile of wins. How about a season of 18-9 with a 3.94 ERA?
SP Jake Westbrook
Westbrook was excellent in 2004. He went 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA. Last year, is ERA dropped down to 4.49, but he still won 15 games (with 15 losses). He has thrown over 200 innings the last two years. He is definitely not a strikeout pitcher with a K-Rate of less than five strikeouts per nine innings over his career. What he is is an extreme groundball pitcher. He gets almost three groundballs for every fly ball out. I like Westbrook as much because of his bulldog approach. Also, he is just 28. However, he has been in some trade rumors (Reds for Austin Kearns), but if I was the Indians, I would just keep him. How about 15-12 with a 4.11 ERA?
SP Cliff Lee
"Ah, the beauty of run support. In 2004, the 26 year old lefty had a 5.43 ERA. He had a WHIP of 1.50. Opponents hit .268 off of him and he walked four hitters every nine innings. And, even with that, he had a record of 14-8. (I would encourage everyone to look at Brad Radkes numbers in comparison and then look at his win total. Then tell me that the pitchers "Win" total describes how good of a pitcher he is. PS - Bert Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame!)"
This is what I wrote about Lee last year. Now check out his 2005 numbers. He had an ERA of 3.79, which is actually quite good. His WHIP dropped to 1.22. Opponents hit .251 against him and he walked just 2.3 hitters per nine innings. He went 18-5. So, his numbers were all greatly improved, and combined with a great offense, it meant a great record. Again, he is still not in that upper echelon of pitchers, but he is getting better. He is still just 27 years old. Normally, I don't like to put a lot into Win stats, but Lee just seems to have a knack for getting Wins. So, how about a 21-7 record and a 3.51 ERA?
SP Paul Byrd
In his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, 35 year old Byrd had an ERA of 3.74, just lower than Cliff Lee. He was with the Angels so he went just 12-11. He went back over 200 innings. Byrd's 'stuff' isn't necessarily great, but he's smart, and he keeps the ball down, and with movement, making it very tough for hitters to get the good part of the bat on the ball. At about 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings last year, he definitely uses his defense. Assuming his shoulder is healthy, and that his defense plays well behind him, there is no reason to think that he cannot keep his ERA below 4. How about 14-8 with a 3.95 ERA?
SP Jason Johnson
What have we heard about the 32 year old Jason Johnson? That he is an innings eater. However, in his last two years with Detroit, he has made 33 starts each year and thrown a combined 407.2 innings. That is good, but nothing spectacular. That is his lone skill? Well, last year his ERA was 4.54, but his career ERA is 4.88. Opponents hit .278 against him him a year ago, and that was in cavernous Comerica. In Cleveland, that number could go up. Like most of the other Indians starters, Johnson does not strike out many hitters, just under four per nine innings last year. This spot in the rotation could really help the Twins hopes of surpassing the Indians. What do you think of 9-15 with a 5.06 ERA?
Closer Bob Wickman
I think that Wickman was planning on retiring after his excellent 2005 season. The Indians made a big push for Trevor Hoffman, but came up just short. So Wickman was resigned the next day. Wickman had missed all of 2003 with Tommy John surgery, and half of 2004. In 2005, he came back with a strong year and a 2.47 ERA. He went 0-4 and recorded a league-leading 45 saves. He does not look like a closer. He doesn't throw hard. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts (45 in 62 innings). He gets a lot of groundballs though and just gets it done.
One 2 Watch Jeremy Sowers
Sowers was the first round pick of the Cincinnati Reds, 20th overall, in 2001 out of high school. He decided to go to college at Vanderbilt (where he teamed with Twins 2005 draft pick Ryan Mullins) and moved up to the 6th overall pick in 2004 by the Indians. He started in A ball and went 8-3 with a 2.78 ERA. He moved up to AA and went 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA. He had 13 starts at each location and finally made one start at AAA Buffalo at the end of the year. Sowers does not throw very hard, and sometimes a pitcher like that has a tendency to struggle adjusting once he gets to AA (see Glen Perkins), but he has the 'stuff', control, and make up to continue to pitch well there. Sowers likely will start this season at AAA, but if any of the Indians starters struggle or get hurt, do not be surprised to see Sowers get the call.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good Sabathia, Lee, Byrd and the future of Sowers.
The Bad Johnson.
Three Questions Can Lee continue to improve? Will Sabathia ever take that next step? Can Wickman stay healthy for one more year??
SP Jeremy Bonderman
It is hard to say that the Tigers have been smart about Bonderman. If they would have been, they would have realized how bad the team was going to be in 2003 and let him experience some success in the minor leagues at the age of 20. Having said that, they limited his innings pitched each season, 162 in '03, 184 in '04 and 189 last year. His ERA has gone from 5.56 in '03, to 4.89 to 4.57 last year. I think that 2006 is the year that Bonderman will bust out. As long as he can stay healthy, I think that the Tigers can now take off the reigns and let him be successful. I expect he will get closer to the eight strikeouts per nine inning mark that he had in 2004. I expect him to find a way to get some more Wins, but I think that will be done with a lower Batting Average against, a better WHIP, and just more poise and control. Can you see 16-10 with a 4.10 ERA?
SP Mike Maroth
"I really admire Maroth and think that he would be a very good 4th starter for most major league teams. What he showed in his 21 loss 2003 season was a heart that just wanted to pitch." I think I may write that for Maroth every year! I like watching a guy who can just record strikeout after strikeout, but I also enjoy watching a pitcher try to outsmart the hitter with intelligence. That is what Maroth tries to do. Now, I can't really say that he has been all that successful. He was good in 2004 with a 4.31 ERA. But again last year his ERA fell down to 4.74. It did mean a career high in Wins with 14. So, what to expect from him? He will give the Tigers over 200 innings. He will post an about average ERA, so about 4.50. I'm going to guess 13-12 with a 4.48 ERA.
SP Nate Robertson
Robertson is 28 years old and has pitched exactly 197.2 innings each of the last two years. He had a 4.90 ERA in 2004 and went 12-10. He had an ERA of 4.49 last year and went 7-16. His stuff is about the same as Maroth's. So he will give up about a hit and inning. He will need to cut down on his walks allowed to be more successful. I think he gets by because he is primarily a groundball pitcher. He gets some strikeouts, but is far from a strikeout pitcher. The Tigers have to hope the he and Maroth can learn a lot from Kenny Rogers' presence. How about 11-10 with a 4.37 ERA?
SP Kenny Rogers
The assumption has to be that Rogers, after posting a 3.46 ERA with the Rangers last year, that he should improve that in Detroit. But lets not forget that this same pitcher had a 4.76 ERA in 2004, and in his "good" year with the Twins in 2003, his ERA was at 4.57. Can Rogers be good still at 41? Sure. Can he be great? No. Does he know how to keep his team in a ball game? Absolutely. And sometimes, that's what you need in a starting pitcher; a guy who can keep the team close and hope for a win in the end. 12-13 with a 4.67 ERA?
SP Justin Verlander
The 2nd overall pick in 2004 out of Old Dominion made his professional debut in 2005. He started at Class A and went 9-2 with a 1.67 ERA. He had 104 strikeouts and 19 walks in 86 innings. He moved up to AA and went 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA in 7 starts. He was also 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in two big league starts. Verlander is very similar to Mark Prior. He is a highly touted college pitcher who is mechanically sound and throws hard with good secondary pitches. He was shut down toward the end of last season with arm trouble, but it was in part just as a precaution. I expect that Verlander will make the team as the #5 starter and very possibly be the team's best or second best starting pitcher although they may also try to keep him at or under 200 innings. How about a nice 14-7 record with a 3.86 ERA?
Closer Todd Jones
Todd Jones was a bad relief pitcher from about 2001 to 2004. He went to camp with the Marlins last year and they were saying that he couldn't hit 86 on the radar gun. Somehow his arm strength improved and by midseason he was hitting 95 with regularity. He went 1-5 with 40 saves and a 2.10 ERA. He became one of the top closers in the National League. And, in made him a lot of money on a two year deal with the Tigers. He will be given first shot at the closer's role as Troy Percival appears to be done. When he returns to true Todd Jones form, don't be surprised if Fernando Rodney takes over the closer's role.
One 2 Watch Joel Zumaya
Like Verlander, Zumaya may be competing for the 5th starter spot for the Tigers. I don't think that he has a shot to make the team on Opening Day but could be the first called up. Zumaya throws hard. 100 mph hard. Like Travis Bowyer, he needs to perfect his other pitches. Zumaya certainly needs to improve his control and keep his walks down. But I think he has a major Major League future.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good Bonderman and the futures of Verlander and Zumaya.
The Bad - The bullpen.
The Question Marks Can Bonderman take the step to stardom? Can Verlander meet his potential and become a star? How long will Todd Jones remain the team's closer?
Kansas City Royals
SP Zack Greinke
Greinke was just 20 years old when he went 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA for the bad Kansas City Royals team. He was a pitcher that gave the team some chance of hope heading into the future. Last year, people continued to blame his record on the poor team play, but let's look a little deeper. Yes, the Royals were bad, and Greinke was just 5-17. However, he also had an ERA of 5.80. His WHIP was at 1.56. Although he never has really walked many, his walk rate jumped by about a walk per nine innings. Opponents hit .309 against him. In other words, I know he is still young, and I know he is on a bad team, but a full season of 33 starts like that tells me that he isn't necessarily ready yet. How about a season of 10-14 with a 4.69 ERA? Can he improve that much? (Greinke has left Royals training camp for undisclosed reasons, said not to be drugs. Hopefully everything is ok for him)
SP Runelvys Hernandez
Hernandez missed half of 2003 and all of 2004 following Tommy John surgery. Before the injury, he showed signs of being a solid pitcher. He was ok as a rookie in 2002 and alright in 2003 before the injury. I know, I used such non-exciting adjectives on purpose. Last year was his first year back from surgery, and he wasn't very good. He went 8-14 with a 5.52 ERA. In 160.2 innings, he walked 70 and struck out 88. He also gave up 172 hits. All told, that is a WHIP of 1.52. Now, in many cases, it is that second year after TJ Surgery when players come back, so there is a chance that Runelvys will re-enter the building with a decent 2006 season. How does 12-10 with a 4.86 ERA sound?
SP Mark Redman
Redman is now with his sixth team in the last five years since the Twins traded him to the Tigers. Redman always puts up decent, but from from spectacular numbers. But you have to wonder about him since he is traded so often, and this time for a minor league relief pitcher. Ouch! Last year, the now-32 year old pitcher went 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA. And that was in the National League. So, what will happen when he plays in the AL, against full lineups, and plays for a bad team. He is a candidate to be held out of games late in the season so as not to lose 20 games. How about 7-17 with a 5.29 ERA?
SP Scott Elarton
30 year old Scott Elarton had his first semi-decent season last year since he split time starting and in the 'pen for the Astros in 1999. He did a nice job of giving the Indians 5-6 innings every fifth day as their fifth starter. He was usually able to keep them in the game so they could hope for a Win. He went 11-9. Even in his 'semi-decent' 2005 campaign, he had an ERA of 4.61. But he limited baserunners and didn't walk too many. A 4.61 ERA got him 11 wins for the Indians a year ago. A 4.61 ERA with the Royals could make him 7-18. Yet the Royals gave him a nice two year contract and he will be one of the pitchers they will count on. How about 10-13 with a 5.12 ERA?
SP Joe Mays/J.P. Howell
Joe Mays is now 30 yeas old and is coming off of his first season after Tommy John surgery. He went 6-10 with a 5.65 ERA. That doesn't even tell the whole truth. He was not bad early in the season. He warranted the spot in the rotation. But at some point in July, he just lost it. It didn't matter what he threw to the batter, it didn't move at all and got crushed. When he started, you hoped that he would only give up four or five runs and Gardy would take him out after four. Usually, it didn't go that well. I have to admit. I like Joe Mays and want him to return to a nice healthy season. I want him to be successful, just not against the Twins.
Howell is a 22 year old lefty. He was the teams' 1st round pick in 2004 out of the University of Texas. Like other college pitchers, he dominated A ball last year. He did very well with his promotion to AA and quickly moved to AAA. The Royals, starved for pitching, probably called him up a little too early from there. He had decent numbers, but he also walked a batter every other inning. He came to the Royals and made 15 starts. He was 3-5 with a 6.35 ERA. In 72.2 innings, he gave up 73 hits and walked another 39 hitters. Clearly Howell is a guy with a chance. He can be a good pitcher, but he's not ready yet. Not until he gets his control worked out.
Closer Jeremy Affeldt/Mike MacDougal
MacDougal went 5-6 with 21 saves last year for the Royals. In 68 games, he threw 72+ innings and struck out 74. He still walks too many, but if he is healthy, he can be a decent closer. Affeldt? Well, who knows what his role will be this year. I really don't know why they didn't try to trade him, but I would assume that he will get a couple of save chances throughout the year.
One 2 Watch Andy Sisco
Sisco was the Cubs 2nd round draft pick in 2001 out of high school. The 6-9 southpaw advanced one level each year in their system. He throws hard as shown by his very impressive minor league strikeout totals. For those reasons alone, along with the height/development issues, I can't believe that the Cubs left him unprotected after the 2004 season. The Royals took him in the Rule V draft and were more than happy to keep him on their major league roster. He wasn't just there, he was arguably their best pitcher. Check that. There really is no argument about it. He was! He went 2-5 but he had a nice 3.11 ERA. In 75.1 innings, he struck out 76 hitters. Control remains a problem for him as he did walk 42 hitters (five per nine). If he can get some control, at 23, he would still be a candidate for a starting spot, or he could become a very dominant reliever!
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good still Greinke, and probably Sisco.
The Bad the rest of the rotation... and the bullpen.
Three Questions Can Redman and Elarton prove worthy of their acquisition? Can Greinke be positive and improve? What will Affeldt and Siscos roles be?
SP Johan Santana
Last years should-have-been-Cy-Young-winner, Santana had a far more consistent 2005 season than even his remarkable 2004 year. All told, he went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA (0.01 behind Kevin Millwood for the league lead), and a 0.97 WHIP. He strikes out more than one an inning while walking very few and not allowing too many homers (which is impressive that he is more of a fly ball pitcher). My 2006 Projection would be 21-8 with a 2.83 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, opponents to hit just .194 off of him, and for him to strike out about 9.5 per nine innings. Another Cy Young caliber season is very possible for the soon-to-be 27 year old.
SP Brad Radke
Will this really be the final season for the 33 year old Radke? I think it if funny that everyone wants to know, but at the same time, like Barry Bonds, there is really no reason to make such a decision now. Let's just enjoy the pitcher that is Brad Radke. A finesse, smart pitcher, Radke has been consistently above average in terms of ERA and WHIP. He walks so few that it makes up for a higher opponent batting average. Last year, Radke went 9-12 with a 4.04 ERA (well above league average). On September 2nd, Radke fell to 8-11 with a patented 7 inning, 3 run game. He would make two more rough starts before the Twins were eliminated and he shut things down. He had just passed 200 innings for the 9th time in his 10 year career. In my projections, I thought that he will miss a few starts throughout the year, some to rest him and some to minor injuries. I predicted that he will go 12-7 with a 4.28 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.
SP Carlos Silva
"I dont think anyone really knew what to expect from the 25 year old Venezuelan last year in his first season as a starting pitcher after two years as a reliever with the Phillies. I think its fair to say that Silva met any expectations. On the year, he went 14-8 with a respectable 4.21 ERA. I think he tired a little shortly after the All-Star break but then came back well at the end of the year. The sinkerball pitcher doesnt strike out many, and like Radke was on the league leader board for fewest walks. So many seem to expect Silva to falter in his second year. I see him as a big, young guy with good movement. I see no reason for him to fall off at all. In fact, I am excited to see what he will do. I would take him in the 14th round."
That is what I wrote about Silva last year. In 2005, Silva was really amazing. He led the leader board in terms of fewest walks. In fact, his 0.43 BB/9 number was lower than anyone who pitched in the 20th century. Nine walks in a season! And for his work, the Twins gave him just nine wins thanks to little offensive output. He was 9-9 with a 3.44 ERA. Opponents did hit .290 off of him, but had just a .300 OBP! Remember also that Silva pitched most of the year on one good leg as he tore his meniscus in the first week of the season and had surgery before the season ended. That said, Silva can be very hittable, and very infrequently did that result in hurting Silva. Can he remain relatively "lucky" again this year? My projection for Silva was 15-11 with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. I think that he can increase his strikeout rate to closer to 4.5, but I also think that he may almost walk a batter every nine innings as well! From a fantasy perspective, he is middle of the pack because he won't strike many out and hitters will hit him.
SP Kyle Lohse
After three starts last year, Lohse had an ERA in the upper-6s and was skipped in the rotation. He missed one start and by the end of May, his ERA was back down to 4.22. It stayed in the 4's the rest of the season as Lohse put together his best season. He went 9-13 with a 4.18 ERA, excellent ERA for a 4th starter. He doesn't strike many out, but like the rest of the rotation, he doesn't walk many either. Now, I was also quite vociferous in saying that the Twins should not have brought Lohse back. I am really surprised that he is still with the team (although would not be shocked if he is traded before the season starts) as the Twins needed bats and could use his $4 million to find some, especially when there are guys in the system who could pitch better. Now, all that said, I think I surprised a lot of people when I projected that the 27 year old would go 16-9 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Count me as one of the guys who still believes that he could break out!
SP Scott Baker/Francisco Liriano
The Twins 5th starter spot could be a battle, although I don't think that it will be. I think that what Baker did the last two years should give him first crack at the spot in the rotation. He has proven himself ready to move up. He has nothing to prove at AAA, and he did the job when called upon last year. Now, Francisco Liriano is far more flashy, and I don't mean that as he is showy or arrogant. He is much the opposite in fact. I mean that he can post some impressive strikeout totals, and I think that he will be ready to be a #1-type starter very soon. But he really does need to work on controlling his fastball. His slider and changeup are both ready, and the fastball, even if its not perfect, hits 96 or 97 which helps cover up some mistakes. I think that both of these will be in the rotation by July. I predicted that Baker would make 32 starts and go 11-10 with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. Liriano, who I projected to have some bullpen time as well (something the Twins are saying won't happen, but when you look at their other lefty bullpen options, you can't help but wonder), I have a projection of 6-4 with a 4.14 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, an opponent batting average of .255 and almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings.
Closer Joe Nathan
Along with Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez and Brad Lidge, Nathan is one of the game's top closers. He wasn't quite as dominant in 2005 as 2004, but he still went 43-48 in save chances. The Twins close games also helped him to a 7-4 record. He struck out over 12 per nine innings, a remarkable number. He walks very few, although both years with the Twins he has had one bad stretch of three or four games and in each case it has been because of walks. I projected for him to go 2-4 with 47 saves and a 2.67 ERA. Add in a 0.92 WHIP, and a .176 Opponent Batting average and Nathan remains one of the best.
Relievers Juan Rincon/Jesse Crain
Rincon was incredible in 2004 setting up, and he was even better in 2005. He went 6-6 with a 2.46 ERA. He struck out almost 10 per nine innings. Crain stole Rincon's role as The Vulture as well. He went 12-5 with a 2.71 ERA. Amazingly, he was very successful despite recording just 2.8 strikeouts per nine innings! Hopefully that number can jump a lot in 2006. I projected Rincon to be 2-3 with a 2.44 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and about 10.3 K/9. For Crain, I see him going 3-5 with a 2.09 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and jumping to about 5.4 K/9.
Two 2 Watch Boof Bonser/Willie Eyre
In 2005, Bonser led the International League with 168 strikeouts (in 160.1 innings). He was 11-9 with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. These are good numbers, but probably also show that he could use another AAA season of seasoning. If he can bring down the ERA and walks, his other numbers would translate and he would be ready. In reality, he could already be ready to pitch for some organizations, just not the Twins right now. But he is very important for depth, and I believe we will see him in 2006. I think we could see a lot of Eyre this year. The team added the 27 year old to the roster right after the season. In 2005, he worked out of the bullpen and went 10-3 with a 2.67 ERA. He then went down to Venezuela and went 9-0 with a 1.26 ERA. I think he will likely take Matt Guerrier's role from last year, but could see some significant time later in the year.
Team Fantasy Summary -
The Good Santana, Silva, the bullpen Nathan and the futures of Baker and Liriano.
The Bad - probably still Lohse, but we will see.
Three Questions Can the starters stay healthy? What will Radke do? Who will be the fifth starter? Who will win the 5th starter job and when will Kyle Lohse be traded to make room for the other?
Well, that is it for Part 8 of my Fantasy Baseball Preview. I hope youve enjoyed it. The same format will be used next when I discuss the AL East pitching staffs (hopefully by Friday). Please let me know what you think. Any comments or suggestions would be welcomed! E-mail me.
WEEKEND THOUGHTS AND LINKS
Over the weekend, I read a lot of Twins-related articles around the internet. I know not many check this site over the weekend, but if you did, you saw that I kept a running look at many of the Twins articles. So, if you would like to see who has been writing about what, please check out the weekend articles. I have also included a number now that are posted in the Monday newspaper or blog. If you would like to discuss any of them, send me an e-mail, or post some Comments. Let's get some discussion going!
Here is what was posted:
Weekend Thoughts and Links
Hello everyone! I guess we will find out if anyone checks out this site over the weekend. If I find and read any Twins-related articles over the weekend, I will link to them here. I am sure the mlb.com and other media outlets will be writing articles over the weekend, as well as some bloggers, so I will try to provide a good place to find such articles for you to peruse. If you read an article that I haven't linked to, be sure to e-mail me the link and I'll check it out and post it. Thank you!
First of all, I am going to re-post the link to this absolutely amazing story that I stole from the Comments section of Aaron's Baseball Blog yesterday. It was posted here yesterday, but later, so you may have missed it. If you haven't seen it, please check it out here!
MLB.com's Robert Falkoff posts an article called Batista a Welcome Addition to Twins Camp on its main page. One paragraph reads:
"Back to the Major Leagues," said Batista, a deeply religious man. "It's going to be exciting. God opened the door for me again to be here on this level."
And, when I read this quote in the same article... "The same Tony Batista you saw for eight years in the Major Leagues ... you're going to see it this year." ... I think I heard Gleeman throw up a little in his mouth!!!
Robert Falkoff writes the Twins mlb.com Notes section for today. He notes that Ruben Sierra says he "doesn't feel his age." I think that Sierra is almost a lock to make the roster and will do will in a pinch hitting role. He writes about the speedy Andres Torres as if he has a chance to make the Twins 25 man roster. He doesn't. Also, a very deserving invite went out to lefty reliever Jason Miller. He reported to camp yesterday.
mlb.com's Jonathan Mayo, who has a radio show and a blog titled "Around the Minors (with Mayo)" posted Friday afternoon about minor league teams with the best pitching staff. His first team that he mentions is the Ft. Myers Miracle potential starting staff!! Be sure to go to the article and post some comments in support of the Twins pitching staffs!
Check out the News Press of Fort Myers' Twins Photo Gallery. Just looking at the first picture, the caption starts out with "Twins fans watch Luis Castillo practice his pitching..." OK, first, why would Luis Castillo be practicing pitching. Second, Castillo and Shannon Stewart are the only players who had not yet reported to camp. Third, I can't tell for certain, but I think the pitcher is Kyle Lohse.
So many changes to the roster. The WBC. All the issues from last year. These are areas of concern as the new look Twins try to develop some team chemistry according to today's Joe Christenson article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Saturday will be the first full squad practice. Of course, we can all argue about how important chemistry really is to a winning team. There are dozens of examples of teams where most player hated each other that won. And there have been hundreds of teams that got along wonderfully that didn't come anywhere near the playoffs.
Interesting Side Topic - Christians versus Atheists, an article from today's Strib as well. August Berkshire is an Atheist who presented his 18 Unconvincing Arguments for God to a Christian Theology class at Northwestern University in Roseville, MN. Here is a great quote that he uses:
"I don't care if you accept my arguments or not. I just want to show you that yours are based on faith, not reason. And that's OK, as long as you don't try to force them on me or our government."
I took a class my first year at Concordia in Moorhead. It was a religion class. One of the three blocks, we read a book called Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. The book and the professor tested many of the basic beliefs that I had grown up with, or been brought up with. I immersed myself into the book and into the class discussions. I really enjoyed it. When the class was over, I was walking by the library when I ran into the professor. He asked me, "So, Seth, have I changed your beliefs?" I thought for a second and finally responded, "Actually, no. It may have actually made me stronger in my beliefs." He just smiled and said "That's good." I say this in that I think it is great that there is such a debate. It is good for these students to have their faith tested. Only after having it tested can you really believe. Only after reading or hearing other beliefs or theologies can you really say that you believe. The Christian church is completely based on Faith. I believe, and after that class I believed because I believed. That may sound like a strange sentence, right? But again, I believe because I believe, not because that is what I was born into believing, or that is what I was taught was the only thing to believe. Faith and Religion are very personal things, and should be. But I also think that it can be important to talk about. Enough on the non-baseball topic... sorry!
This LaVelle E. Neal III article tells us that 15 (and maybe 16) members of the Twins organization will be playing in the WBC. That is really a good thing in terms of talking about the strength of the Twins organization.
Check back for more throughout the weekend. Thanks, and feel free to e-mail me or Comment below.
My high school alma mater's girls gymnastics team won its third straight state tournament yesterday.
"Roger" sent me a great article from the Twins Scout.com page that discusses the best defensive players at each position in the Twins system. It was very informative for me as I did not know who was highly thought of defensively. We can only see how they hit and if they have errors in a box score, so an article like this is great!
He sent me another Brad Weiss Scout.com article about many more of the team's prospects.
CBS Sportsline's Eric Mack looks at the Twins from a Fantasy Baseball Perspective.
Another story on Torii Hunters "GREAT" leadership abilities (Note Sarcasm!)
I may not be real high on the Twins' signing of Tony Batista, but Joe Christenson does a wonderful job of making him out to be just a great teammate, and a good, religious man, just looking for another chance in the big leagues.
He then penned an article that discussed Luis Castillo hitting 2nd behind Shannon Stewart although the two are interchangeable. He also notes that Torii Hunter must have been slapped on the wrist by Major League Baseball for his anti-WBC comments. Finally, there are some WBC-related pitching situations discussed.
The Pioneer Press's Jason Williams wrote much of the same things.
Leave it to Shooter, former Twins pitcher, Charley Walters. In his article Friday, he wrote:
When Jake Mauer, brother of Twins catcher Joe, was signed as a utility infielder out of the University of St. Thomas five years ago, he was 6 feet 2, 160 pounds. Now he's up to 195 pounds and might end up at Class AAA Rochester (N.Y.) this season, with a legitimate chance to make it to the major leagues.
Yeah, Jake could make it to the Majors this year, if there are injuries to Tony Batista, Jason Bartlett, Luis Castillo, Juan Castro, Glenn Williams, Terry Tiffee, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Luis Rodriguez, Luis Maza, and Tommy Watkins!
And, Jason Williams wrote an article on Tony Batista too. It is amazing to me that all spring the writers from the Star-Tribune, Pioneer Press and MLB.com will write essentially the same articles, sometimes even using the same quotes. I know there are only so many stories, but a little variation would be nice. And, we still need to read all three, just in case one has some little tidbit that the other two missed. And I don't mean to pick on Jason Williams by posting this comment in a bullet point attributed to him, but I didn't know where to put it.
On Friday, I posted a Q&A with Twins Minor Leaguer Tommy Watkins. Today, in the News Press of Ft. Myers, David Dorsey wrote an amazing article on Watkins. Talks about his power for the Twins, his versatility and his leadership and personality skills. Just a great read!
Jason Williams writes about Luis Castillo, who will have the green light this year. There are obvious concerns with the artificial turf though.
Kevin Garnett just got ejected for getting a technical on a charging call and then taking the ball and tossing it into the stands where it hit a fan in the head. I like SBG's thoughts on the situation.
Kelly Thesier discusses the hope for a more stable lineup as well as the team's concerns about pitching in the WBC.
In her notes column, she writes about how the pitchers being in the WBC simply allows other pitchers to get some time, to get noticed. That is not a bad thing at all.
"He's an idiot! He's selfish. That's why we don't miss him." The words of White Sox GM Kenny Williams regarding Frank Thomas! Ha!
Pat Neshek updated his site again. The rain has kept the pitchers from doing too much. He did get to throw a batting practice session. Also, he tells us about his video shoot. Not sure what I mean? Well, check out his site and I think you will find it as interesting as I did.
LaVelle reports that we should expect that Torii Hunter's ankle will experience some soreness throughout camp and probably into the season before it gets to 100% Carlos Silva will be a starter for Venezuela in the WBC which is great news for the Twins. And, Concordia (St. Paul) is in big trouble when they play the Twins on Wednesday!
Aaron Gleeman posted his choice for the #33 Twins player of All-Time, and again, I think it is a great choice. To recap, here are the previous choices:
#34 Matt Lawton
#35 Steve Braun
#36 Dave Boswell
#37 Jimmie Hall
#38 Eric Milton
#39 Scott Erickson
#40 Randy Bush
Kelly Thesier writes that after his heart issues and tests of a year ago, Ron Gardenhire is a calmer manager these days. Ha! Not a calm manager by any means, but a calm manager!
Nick N. writes that one person on the proverbial hot seat is Mr Gardenhire. He may play a bigger role in the team's success this year than he has in previous years. We'll see how he does.
There is a nice article on a potential new stadium over at The Greet Machine.
According to this article, former Twins OF Michael Restovich is spending some time in the infield this spring.
The silly Carl Eller! These young kids today, I tell ya!
Here is a Q&A with Riccardo Ingram on the New Britain Rockcats website.
And again, be sure to stop by Dewey's Daily Cup for a good way to start a day. Also, Dewey wrote to inform me that he hopes/plans to post my thoughts on the Strib's article on Sunday regarding Atheism and Christianity.
And on that note, I wish you a wonderful week. If you have any questions or comments on anything you have read above, please e-mail me.
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