Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Knowledgeable owners WILL take full advantage of the 'Wire, using it to bolster thin Infields, flesh-out iffy-Outfields, strengthen suspect rotations, and provide all-around depth.

Let's take a BRIEF look at some other players who may be available in your league and remember, the deeper the league the thinner the available pool of talent!


1. Texas Rangers; Rod Barajas: Comfortably settled into the Ranger lineup, the newly-minted starter enjoyed a breakthrough .254/21/60 '05 campaign. Not "elite" Catcher stats', but they they're good enough to insert into an everyday lineup!
Surrounded by Texas' "shock and awe" lineup, Barajas ought to see plenty of hittable pitches this year as opposing starters will be far more likely to take their chances with the 30 year old Catcher as opposed to challenging "crush-alots" such as Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, David Dellucci and Michael Young.
Consider Barajas a VERY borderline #1 fantasy backstop and an excellent #2; .249/20/65.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates; Ryan Doumit: Taken in the 2nd round of the '99 draft, Doumit's been stalked by the injury bug but after beginning last season in the Minors he received a June call-up, handled both himself, and the staff with the poise of a vet', and hit .255/6/35, with 13 Doubles and 1 Triple in 75 games behind the plate.
The threat of injury will impact the kid's draft value, at least until he proves himself durable. And, while his power numbers should increase his average will probably hover around the .275-.280 mark. In short, Ryan Doumit should be a very solid #2 fantasy backstop with the potential to be much more.
Look for something close to .260/10/50.

3. Atlanta Braves; Brian McCann: Last season, in just 180 plate appearances, the rookie backstop "Wally Pipped" injured incumbent Johnny Estrada with a .278/5/23 season. His encouraging play allowed Hot-lanta to bid farewell to the one-time .300 hitter.
McCann's already developed a veteran's demeanor behind the dish and has an excellent rapport with his staff, and after spending a full off-season and spring with the parent club he could be as good as .275/16/60 this year.


1. Atlanta Braves; Adam LaRoche: LaRoche's .258/20/78/53 rookie campaign was most encouraging, and he has a world of upside. The downside? As of Tuesday 3/28, the kid's swatting a meager .194 in 36 ABs. . However, given the fact that his swing would never be called "compact" it could take a little while to develop his timing. If you do gamble a pick on the Atlanta 1st Bagger it would be wise to keep him "pine-lined" until he heats up at the dish, and that might not happen until May... so be patient.

****Arizona Diamondbacks; 1B Conor Jackson: A big man at 6-2/230 Jackson played 3B in college, was drafted as a corner infielder, and was subsequently bumped to LF last season due to greybeard Tony Clark's unconscious .304/30/87 '05. After pulverizing the ball in 93 Trip'-A games last year (.354/.553/.457, with 38 Doubles and 73 Ribbies' in 93 games), Jackson got the call... and hit a relatively anemic .200/2/8 in 40 games.
So far this spring, and keep in mind that spring numbers hold little water with many league observers, Conor Jackson has hit the ball at a frantic, .450+ pace. The fact of the matter is, Jackson has handled the lumber SO well that the team bumped Shawn Green from the 5-hole and replaced him with the hard-hitting 1st Bagger! Obviously, hitting 5th in the lineup will afford C-Jack' with loads of RBI chances and Fastballs.
Another youngster with NL "Rookie of the Year" potential, knowing full well that Conor Jackson represents the future of the franchise and Tony Clark is waist-deep in the twilight of his career, the D-Backs will stand by their talented prospect and allow him to ride-out the inevitable ups and downs of a season without fear of looking over his shoulder. That being said, if he can carry his white-hot spring over to the regular season... we're looking at a potential .300/25/100 '06.

Toronto Blue Jays; Eric Hinske: Hinske's currently enjoying a standout spring and looks a lot like the player who hit .279/24/84/99 in '02.

Washington Nationals; Nick Johnson: Brilliant with the lumber and above average with the leather, if only could manage to stay healthy for a full season he could be a .295/25/90 kind of player.

Pittsburgh Pirates; Sean Casey: A better lineup than many realize, Casey will enjoy the protection afforded by OF'er Jason Bay and fellow Cincy' exile, 3B Joe Randa.

Angels of Los Wherever; Casey Kotchman: Drafted in 2001, Kotchman is still just 23. Enjoying a BIG spring, the big Angel is picking up where he left off last season (.302/.526/.369 in just 40 late-season games) and has been penciled in as Anaheim's starting 1st bagger. Finally. Currently obliterating opposing pitching at a .441 pace and leading the team with 14 RBIs, Kotchman is a sneaky-good pickup and should be an excellent "Flex" #2 1st Baseman.
Rest assured, if he continues to hit like this... another owner will snatch him off the 'wire before the regular season enters its 2nd week.


1. Chicago Cubs; Todd Walker: A skilled batsman with a .290 career batting average and .441 career Slugging Percentage, in just 110 contests last season Walker set, matched, or approached career numbers; his .305 BA was a career best, his .474 SLG % was second only to 00's .476, and his .355 OBP was bettered only by '98's mark of .372. Although Todd Walker is just 32, frankly he's an "old" 32 given his injury-checkered history and he probably amounts to nothing more than a fantasy backup at this point. Even so, a professional hitter with the ability to pound out a line of .301/12/60, Walker would constitute an excellent fantasy backup.

2. San Diego Padres; Josh Barfield: Son of former big league slugger Jesse Barfield, with the operative term being "big," young Josh Barfield is a svelte and speedy 2nd Baseman. After a .310/.450/.370, 15 HR, 25 Double, 72 Rib', 20 SB 2005 season at Triple-A, Barfield is secret no longer. The 23 year old Pad' has top of the order speed and skills to complement rapidly developing mid-order power.
Although he may still be as raw as Sushi, Barfield's time is now; .270/18/75, with 25 SB.


Colorado Rockies; Luis Gonzalez: Another slap-hitter who's having a big spring, "the other LuGo" could be setting himself up for a breakout season judging by the early returns.

Kansas City Royals; Mark Grudzielanek: An average talent whose gritty style of play and work ethic render him better than average. Willing to surrender his body and "take one for the team," Grudzy' can hit but will provide an owner with depth only.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Adam Kennedy: Hit .285/8/52/66 with 21 bags snagged last season, now that 2 years removed from from a torn ACL Adam Kennedy should provide an owner with a bit more pop. That being said, hitting 9th in the lineup will do bupkiss for his RBI and Runs scored stats.

Arizona Diamondbacks; Orlando Hudson: The former Blue Jay seems to be acclimating to his desert digs rapidly, looks to be set for a big season with his new team, and as of Saturday, 3/26, Hud' was hitting 419/.509/.674 in 43 plate appearances. A rock-solid 2nd 2nd Sacker with All-Star defensive skills, a .275/15/75, 15 thieved bag season could be in the works!


1. Kansas City Royals; Angel Berroa: Berroa whet fantasy owners appetites with a killer .287/17/73, 27 Double, 6 Triple, 21 SB 2003 campaign. Unfortunately, Angel followed-up his breakthrough season was a hellish, .262/8/43, 14 SB '04, and owners who were hoping that 2004 was merely a sophomore slump drew little comfort from a marginally improved .270/11/55, 7 SB '05.
A high strikeout, albeit spunky slap-hitter, perhaps the 2nd half of last season offers reason for hope. From the start of July through the end of the regular season, Berroa hit at a .300 clip with 6 of his 11 HRs, 37 of 55 RBIs, and a SLG % of almost .410. If Berroa, who's in no danger of losing his starting job, can use that success as a springboard... then it's not inconceivable that '06 could look very .280/15/65, 10 SB-ish.

2. Milwaukee Brewers; J.J Hardy: The new "Brew-Crew" is rife with young talent! Supported by a potentially outstanding not to mention "sneaky-good" lineup, Hardy could emerge as one of the year's top Roto' surprises. The 23 year old middle infielder's hitting a more than respectable .310 as of Tuesday, 3/28, look for him hit something close to .285/16/65, with a fistful of swiped bags this year. Should Hardy prove himself to be... ahh, "hardy," durable, and capable of sustaining a .280-.290, 15-20 Home Run season, he'll vault up the Shortstop standings and be amongst the top-10 at his position in '07.


Chicago Cubs; Neifi Perez: Enjoying a good spring, Perez is looking a lot like the player he was in '00; .287/10/71, with 39 Doubles and 11 Triples. He'll be a backup but is a near lock for 350 ABs.

San Diego Padres; Khalil Greene: Surrounded by talent, he needs to demonstrate better dish discipline. Still, Greene has yet to approach the kinds of numbers the Pad' brass thought him capable of reaching.

Texas Rangers; Ian Kinsler: Manager Buck Showalter offically named the 24 year old his starting 2nd baseman. With big shoes to fill (he will, of course, be taking over for Alfonso Soriano who was exiled to Washington) Kinsler will rely upon his fellow Texans to handle the heavy offensive lifting... for now. Nevertheless, after hitting .273/23/94/102, with 28 Doubles and 19 SB at Triple-A Oaklahoma (PCL league), Kinsler has demonstrated the ability to "see ball, hit ball."


1. Cleveland Indians; Aaron Boone: Boonie', perhaps you've heard of him? Hailing from a loooong line of "Diamond Dogs," the dude hurt himself playing pick-up Basketball over the summer of '03, confessed his sin to the Yankees, and was promptly cut by Boss Steinbrenner. Although Boone's candor was awfully refreshing, so much for "honesty being the best policy!" Cleveland proceeded to sign the out-of-work cornerman and, upon return from his knee injury, Boone rewarded the Indians with a .243/.299/.378 (Avg./OBP/SLG), 16/60 '05 "cam-pain." But as bad as Boone's .211/.362/.266 1st half was, the club wisely stuck by him and he responded with a vastly improved .276/.394/.336 2nd half. Whether his confidence had taken a knock or he was simply out of game shape matters not, Aaron Boone showed some spark, passion and life, and seemingly has a couple of productive seasons left. Currently enjoying a BIG spring (.440/4/7), Boonie' managed to fend off a challenge from highly regarded 3B prospect Andy Marte and his experience and calm locker room presence will aid the development of promising young players such as OF'er Grady Sizemore, C Victor Martinez, and SS Jhonny Peralta (who obviously needs to be told that he spells his name incorrectly!).
Without looking for miracles, look for .265/19/65; good enough to be a fantasy backup or injury replacement.

2. Chicago White Sox; Joe Crede: Both player and team have been eagerly awaiting a breakthrough season since... like, 2001, but injuries and streaky play have hampered Crede from achieving his goal. Finally, after exemplary post-season (.289/4/11) play and an extensive off-season rehab' program designed to strengthen a potentially troublesome disc issue, Crede's sitting on the very cusp of his breakout campaign. Surrounded by a World Series winning cast and in the best shape of his career, I have Crede pegged for an All-Star caliber season and will ambitiously project .289/27/85.


Pittsburgh Pirates; Joe Randa: Ample power and surrounded by better lumber than many fans realize, Randa, who had a rennaissance '05, is an excellent #2 or "Flex" player.

Detroit Tigers; Brandon Inge: After being drafted in '98 and entering the league as a light hitting Catcher in '01, Inge had his breakout campaign last year when he hit .261/16/72/75. Defensive liabilities behind the plate, coupled with Detroit's need for a hot-corner man prompted a move to 3rd. On the surface Inge's '05 season seems excellent, at least for a backup. But if we peel back the covers a bit, we find that before the break Brandon hit .283/.435/.368, but just.236/.400/.282 after it.
However, we're looking to fill-out our rosters here. If you need to rely upon the Tiger 3rd Baseman as an everyday regular... well, then your team will suffer a serious power brown-out. But, if you're looking for an off-day fill-in or backup... Inge should fill the bill adequately.


1. Oakland A's; Nick Swisher: Although his average took a header last summer, falling from a "July high" of .278 to a .187 "why remember?" September,, Swisher offers 25-28 Dinger' power and 85 Ribbie po'. Right now, though, Swish' is shaping up to be a valuable Utilityman...


Tampa Bay Devil Rays; Randy Winn: Speed to burn, he'll have a difficult time replicating last season. Still, he should be a threat on the basepaths.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays; Rocco Baldelli: Once healthy, a SB base machine and an Outfielder with otherworldly range. Until such time as he proves himself healthy, however, Baldelli's a risky draft pick. In fact, he's on a surprising number of Waiver Wires.

Texas Rangers; David Dellucci: People forget that with 29 round-trippers', this guy "crushed alot" last season. .275/27/75 is within reach on a loaded Texas team.


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