Wednesday, June 21, 2006


It's been 3-4 months since I made my annual pre-season position-by-position projections, virtually every franchise has played 70 games, and now it's time to take a look and see how the players... and my correlational projections, are faring.

As it does every season, Baseball has its share of surprise players (Justin Mourneau... finally putting it all together), disappointing players (Mark Teixeira; where's the power?), and rookie contributors (Prince Fielder... the Brew Crew youth movement is well underway!).
The position is VERY deep, and a number of youngsters have begun to make an appreciable impact on the fantasy landscape.
Sadly, the top 1st Bagger and the best player in Baseball, Albert Pujols, was on his way to a record-shattering season before suffering a strained oblique that had him shelved. Hitting Homers' at a prodigious pace, assuming he maintained the clip Pujols was on his way to an 80+ Home Run season. On the flip-side, young Prince Fielder is leading the Brewers back to respectability, Ryan Howard has taken Philadelphia by storm (2 HRs and 7 Ribbies' last night is powerful stuff, indeed), and Oakland's Dan Johnson looks like he's finally putting it all together, as is Indian slugger Justin Mourneau.
And with that silky smooooth segue...

"The Cream of the Crop!"

1. St. Louis; Albert Pujols: At the ripe ol' age of 25 and after 5 incredibly productive seasons where he averaged .332/40/124, Pujols sits atop the fantasy Baseball draft board and has become a household (at least in those households that have an affinity for Baseball) name.
Last season Pujols won the 1st of what could be several MVP awards, and has become a model of consistency at the plate. The fact of the matter is, knowledgeable Baseball people look upon Pujols' brief career and are incredulous. It's not an exagerration to state that Albert Pujols may become the best player of this generation.
Taking a very workmanlike approach to hitting, the Card' star is an eye-popping batsman who rarely swings at bad pitches and has zero regard for 2-strike counts. He can hit with power to all fields and although the Cardinal lineup will likely miss the potent bat of OF'er Reggie Sanders, the lineup was often missing Sanders' bat due to his numerous injuries anyway. For a moment, let us assume that 30 year-old Scott Rolen's (3B) shoulder is finally sound and that he enjoys a bounce-back season, and that oft-injured CF'er Jim Edmonds also returns with all of his limbs intact (relatively speaking, anyway). Yes, these are quantum leaps of assumption... but just go with it. If gritty, all-out players David Eckstein (SS) and Aaron Miles (2B) are able to get on base and Pujols is afforded some protection, the immeasurably talented First Baseman should, at the very least, equal last seasons' production.
Let's be optimistic here as I believe the Cardinal lineup has about as many holes as a block of imported Swiss, and jot Albert Pujols down for an '06 season of .329/42/120.

"Amid Season" ... After just 53 games, Pujols already had 25 Homers' in the bank and was hitting the ball out of the park at the rate of 1 every other game! To more graphically illustrate that achievement consider that Albie's Home Run to At Bat ratio was 1:7.4 plate appearances. Expected back shortly, Pujols, who managed to plate 65 teammates and took twice as many Walks as Strikeouts (44 BBs to 20 Ks) over his 53 games, should pick-up right where he left off; .309/25/69. Undoubtedly, Pujols' final diggies' will shame my humble projections! And, fortunately for the Cardinals, Scott Rolen's balky back has behaved and he is carrying the team in Pujols' absence. Likewise, although OF'er Juan Encarnacion has rarely met a pitch he didn't like, he too has helped off-set Albert's loss.

2. Texas; Mark Teixeira: The locked-and-loaded Texas lineup gives the skilled 1st Bagger ample Ribbie' opps', Teixeira does his part by studying each pitcher and learning their tendencies, and at age 25 Tex' is already a proven student of the game. His sick fantasy numbers make him a Roto-darling, but with 2B Alfonso Soriano having split town for Washington... Teixeira's RBI opportunities may actually be diminished, to some degree anyway. The kid's batting eye improved demonstrably from the '04 season as evidenced by the 20 point jump in his BA, and his power numbers skyrocketed; 40 more hits, 30 more RBI, and 5 more dingers'.
There's absolutely no reason to believe that Tex' won't record another tremendous season; .305/43/135 is within reach.

"Amid Season" ... Could it be that the considerable expectations are praying upon Tex'? Personally, I dunno', and don't care, but Ranger fans and his owners certainly do! As of today, the mighty Tex' is hitting just .281, a full 20 points lower than last season, with a Slugging % of .435 (a whopping 140 points below last year's .575) and a scant 6 HRs. That ain't no misprint friends, "Teixiera tiene uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco... SEIS Home Runs!" What, when compared to last season's 43? A bit of a let-down to be sure. Although it's certainly not too late for the Ranger corner infielder to heat-up and crank a dozen or more into the cheapies inside of 9 games or so... it doesn't seem as if that's going to happen. Although Blalock is also experiencing a power outage (10 HRs), the book-end infielder hit just 25 last year so the expectations differ. In actuality, it may well be that departed 2B Alfonso Soriano afforded the 1-2 punch much greater protection and confidence then the club realized.
While I would look for Mark Teixeira to conclude the season with an average somewhere in the vicinity of .300, his Home Run total will probably be much closer to 25 than 45 (I hadpredicted another 43 HR season) and his RBI production will lag well behind his '05 total of 144, 110 looks to be about right.

3. Chicago; Derreck Lee: Lee was a fantasy weapon of "Mass Destruction" last season, posting career highs in every category... but in fewer games (Lee missed 4 games) and with fewer ABs (11 fewer ABs than '04). In addition, "see Lee crush ably"; a .662 SLG % and a .418 OBP- how ill! Without a doubt, the Chicago 1st Sacker is a 1st round fantasy pick in ALL formats and is a 5X5 fantasy league dream player. Entering his walk year, Lee and his agent should begin negotiations with the team sometime in the VERY near future. One can only hope that this contract thing doesn't become messy, drag on into the regular season, and become a distraction to D-Lee as this will, in all likliehood, be the Cub star's last Lotto-type contract. However, at the age of 30 you've got to believe that Lee will be a true pro and not let a little thing like $15-18 Million Bucks a year distract him.
At the very peak of his physical skills, Lee couldn't possibly improve upon last year's remarkable numbers, right? Nah', look for a very good season of .315/35/105, with another 15 thieved bags.

"Amid Season" ... Ahhh, well, if wishes were dollars and those dollars were real! Derreck Lee's broken wrist, suffered just 14 games into the regular season, put a serious crimp into rosters everywhere! Lee leapt out of the gate, hitting .318/3/10/11, with 5 swiped bags and 4 Doubles over the span of just 44 ABs. As we did with Pujols, to more graphically illustrate D-Lee's start... of his 14 hits? 7 were of the extra base variety! Those 14 hits led to 10 RBIs, his 5 Swiped Bags led to 3 Runs, and... make no mistake, the Cubbies' sorely miss Lee's lethal lumber. The sad truth is, Lee will struggle to regain strength in his wrist and won't be the player he was until next season. Whipping the bat through the 'zone and making the minute adjustments needed to put bat on ball ALL come from the wrists.
The good news? Ahead of schedule, Derreck Lee will probably re-take the field at some point within the next 2 weeks. I would not, however, take him off my DL or insert him into my starting lineup until he proves that he can be productive in back-to-back contests. Leave him DL'ed for at least 1 extra week.

4. Colorado; Todd Helton: Helton's '05 season ended early due to a bum elbow and he subsequently underwent arthroscopic reconstructive surgery. The good news is that the perennial stud is slated to be ready for Spring-Training, and the 5-time All-Star and 3-time Gold Glover remains a fantasy powerhouse. After struggling through a ghastly-bad 1st half, Helton blew-UP after the AS Break to the tune of .367/10/40, with 48 Runs Scored. Clearly, the man was on a mission and on his way to yet another fab' fantasy season. However, at age 32... Helton ain't upping' the ante any. As good as he is is as good as he'll be, and with career numbers of; .337 BA, a .607 SLG %, 1500+ hits and 915 RBI, Helton is walking the thin "Hall of Fame" line. It'll probably take another 2-3 seasons of typical "Helton-esque" ball to grease the Cooperstown skids.
Look for a HEALTHY Helton to whack his way to a .315/25/95 season, with 95-105 Runs Scored.

"Amid Season" ... A red-hot April (.347 BA with a .633 SLG) led directly into... a May mire (.233 BA with a .389 SLG). Helton, ever the survivor, pulled himself up by his stirrups and is now hitting at a .388 clip for the month of June. Although he's sure to cool off, no way will Helton's BA dip below .250 again this season.
Now, a number of readers (I also write for knocked the projection I made for Toddy-boy, but so far, with a line of .294/6/31, my March projection looks like it's right on...
Given Helton's so-so production to date, coupled with his history of being a solid 2nd half player, the Rockie 1st Baseman might be an excellent trade target.

5. Boston; David Ortiz: Last season, ain't no question in my mind that Ortiz benefitted from the presence of LF'er Manny Ramirez, CF'er Johnny Damon (now a Yankee, Boston's lineup WILL miss his speed and OBP) 3rd Baseman Bill Mueller and C Jason Varitek. Still, you can't knock his crazy fantasy (and real) numbers. This year, due to lineup changes and the simple fact that his '05 out-put was SO ridiculous I would DEFINITELY look for Ortiz to come back to Earth... I will carefully forecast .299/37/130. There will be slightly less protection in the BoSox lineup, and perhaps fewer men on base for Papi to drive in... thus the more modest numbers. Should OF'er Manny Ramirez actually be traded, Ortiz's numbers could take a more dramatic hit. Nevertheless, the Red Sock leviathan could again surprise and approach last season's outrageous production.

"Amid Season" ... With a measely 5 games played at 1st Base, Ortiz doesn't even qualify as a corner infielder in many leagues. And for that reason... at least in large part, Yankee 3B Alex Rodriguez won last year's MVP award.
With the exception of a .263 BA and modest dips in his SLG and OBP percentages, David Ortiz has continued his all-out assault on American League pitching. As difficult as this is to believe, Big Papi' is ahead of last season's power numbers and is on pace to tie... or break, his career Home Run and RBI marks. Ridiculous, just ridiculous! Any chance the Yankees or Mets might try and acquire the "Smackino' Latino?" lol.

6. Cleveland; Travis Hafner: The truth of the matter is that Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez (30 HRs and 90 RBI between the 2) are already manning 1st in platoon fashion. Furthermore, talented young Ryan Garko is also in the fold thus Hafner and his bat will be relegated to DH duty. That is not, however, an insult, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. Without the need to practice scooping poorly thrown balls from the dirt (the Indians will have a young 3rd Bagger in either Marte or Gautreau), Hafner can hone his hitting craft. And in his strong hands, that lumber's lethal! With young and talented hitters littering the Cleveland lineup, Hafner's numbers could even see a slight up-tick.
Look for a terrific all-around fantasy season from a "must start" player; .310/35/115.

"Amid Season" ... A professional hitter in every sense of the word, "Pronk" is on pace for a career year! To date, the dude is crushing alot; .300/19/57/57 with 14 Doubles, a Triple, and a Slugging % of .60-freaking 8!
Although my pre-C' projection was aggressive, Hafner could finish the year with numbers as good as .305/45/130. And, alongside talents such as OF'er Grady Sizemore, SS Jhonny Peralta, and Pitcher C.C Sabbathia... Cleveland's future is quite bright!

7. Houston; Lance Berkman: With veteran Jeff Bagwell falling apart at the seams, the team plans to silde Berkman from the Outfield over to 1st Base. This should prove to be a boon to Berkman, and the move may even prolong his career. After his '05 season was cut short by 30 games and undergoing knee surgery, Berkman won't need to cover the ground of Right Field if he's at the right-corner. In fact, if Berkman moves 15-20 feet on any given play... that'll be a lot! Although Berks' batting average fell by 20+ points, his SLG % by 40+ points, and his OBP by almost 40 points (39, I round up), with Houston awash in young talent and with his knee approaching 100%, look for an all-around improvement in his numbers and game.
The 'Stros' new 1st Baseman has the ability to produce a .295/30/95 campaign.

"Amid Season" ... Man, it feels good to be right! Doesn't feel so hot to be wrong... but a sports writer must handle both with grace.
Now, although Berkman has played some RF, he's responded quite favorably to his new position and plays 1st the majority of the time.
I forecast a .295/30/95 campaign, Berk' is currently swatting .314/19/63 with 12 Doubles, and has re-asserted himself as a top-tier fantasy force.

8. NY Mets; Carlos Delgado: Delgado has again changed Uni's, swapping his Marlin duds for a Met Jersey. New York GM Omar Minaya has coveted the 1st Bagger for a couple of years now, and finally secured his quarry during this past off-season. The '06 Mets, at least the position players, will bear some slight resemblance to their '05 counterparts. Minaya sent an aging and increasingly uncooperative Mike Piazza packing and brought in a solid back-stop and able bat in C Paul LoDuca, OF'er Mike Cameron was also given his walking papers, sent to San Diego for fellow OF'er Xavier Nady (though Nady probably won't be an everyday player), and I could certainly go on but don't care to bore you with Met-minutiae. Look, with David Wright manning the "hot corner" and wielding a hot bat, CF'er Carlos Beltran likely to be a mite more comfy' in NY after another full off-season and training camp, and SS Jose Reyes looking like a healthy, All-Star caliber player... Delgado should enjoy impressive protection and should have men on base in front of him with frequency, affording him consistent RBI opps'.
A regular .300/30 man assuming he remains healthy (back and knee trouble have haunted him in seasons past), look for a VERY solid fantasy season; .295/32/115 are utterly attainable numbers for the 33 year old Delgado.

"Amid Season" ... With the exception of a diminished batting average (he hit .301 in '05, 40 points better than now), Delgado has taken to New York like a duck to water. Surrounded by capable bats and sound D, the veteran 1st Baseman has played a key role in the Mets ascension to the top of the NL East heap. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to state that the Metropolitans are running away with the East.... their .620 (as of Thursday) winning % is second only to Detroit's .658. Imagine THAT!
Currently at .261/20/52, Delgado is doing his owners proud!

9. Chicago White Sox; Paul Konerko: Konerko, a legit' power hitter, is in an interesting situation and on an interesting team. The Sox, under manager Ozzie Guillen, won the Series by playing "small ball." And yet throughout his career, Konerko seemed an ill-fit for an offense that demands a gaudy OBP and high BA. Aha! That's where things have changed for the 29 year old 1st Baseman. Although the guy still finds himself striking out 100 or so times a season, he's also posted back-to-back 40/100 seasons, with 300+ total bases, and SLG %'s of .535 in '04 and .534 in '05. With 1B Jim Thome now on the team and possibly (we'll give him the benefit of the doubt) healthy, Konerko may enjoy even better protection then he had last season...though that would be asking alot. I think Thome's a husk of the ball player he once was, but only time will tell.
Nevertheless, "Crush Konerko" should be good for yet another fine fantasy season, and a line close to .285/40/105 could be on the back of his Baseball cards by April of '07.

"Amid Season" ... Allow me to preface; THOME IS NO HUSK! Hey, although I allowed for the possibility of his being healthy he looked like a duck and walked like a duck.. the husk of a duck, that is. Sidelined since June 14th, Thome, who had deposited 23 Homers into the cheapies through 66 games, is back in the saddle and should be active in all formats.
Back to Konerko, though. "Crush" is living up to his moniker and sporting a line of .324/18/59, with career high SLG and OBP percentages of .587 and .400 respectively, it would appear as if my projections will be on target. That is, of course, aside from a BA that looks like it'll be a minimum of 30 points higher than I'd anticipated.

10. Seattle Mariners; Richie Sexson: The last player on this list, Sexson might get more love if he played for another franchise. Although Seattle trots-out capable veterans in RF'er Ichiro Suzuki, 3B Adrian Beltre and DH Carl Everett amongst others, the team is also festooned with young and marginal talents.
If the squad comes together... and youngsters such as CF'er Jeremy Reed hit, Sexson could post some very respectable numbers.
While ambitious, cross your fingers and look for .261/37/118 from Safeco Field's 1st Bagger.

"Amid Season" ... Uh-uh, hasn't been happening.
The bad news is that Sex' is hitting an utterly anemic .213 with just 13 Round-Trippers and a SLG % of .397... which would be his worst SLG %since he broke into the Bigs' in '97. The good news? The Mariner 1st Bagger has hit almost 1/2 of his total Home Runs over the month of June and has lifted his SLG % to .522. If he can stay on this path, the 32 year old Sexson could still salvage his season and come within hailing distance of my original predictions.


Philadelphia Phillies; Ryan Howard: With a healthy and productive Jim Thome blocking Ryan Howard's ascension to the "Bigs" for a couple of seasons, the youngster could do nothing but bide his time and CRUSH Trip' A pitching. With patience being a virtue and all that tripe, Howard finally got his chance when Thome was felled by injury. And "man oh Manischevitz" did Ryan Howard make good on his opportunity! In 322 plate appearances, the 26 year old rook' put 22 balls beyond reach, drove in 63 Ribs', hit for a .288 average, and went on to win "NL Rookie of the Year" honors.
Now, as an everyday player in a "hitter's park" and with more protection than a big brother gives his hot sister, the big fella' is certainly capable of blasting his way to a .290/35/118 campaign!

"Amid Season" ... Ryno' has taken 'Illadelphia by storm; Jim Thome... who? In just his 2nd season, opposing pitchers are already wary of the big 1st Baseman who is crushing everything in sight; .293/25/66/40, with a simply ridiculous Slugging % of .622 (even better than "Pronk's" .60-freakin' 8 lol). Clearly, Howard has arrived!
I will ammend, however slightly, my March projection to .290/53/135.

Detroit Tigers; Chris Shelton: When fantasy buffs think of top-tier players they tend to think of those athletes who play for powerhouse franchises such as the NY sp'Ankees, the Red Sox, Cubs and Rangers. And, while the Detroit Tigers generally don't leap to mind, players such as Shelton, I-Rod (though he's aging rapidly), and Magglio Ordonez are working to change that perception. The knock on Shelton is his iffy work with the leather, and with a snazzy glove in Carlos Pena playing the same position... the offensive-minded Shelton could lose precious ABs. However, at age 25 and knowing that his defense needed work, Shelton put his nose to the grind-stone and honed his D over the winter. Is he a Gold Glove talent? At this juncture, certainly not. But, will he be an Achilles heel defensively? The answer to that is also an emphatic no. Although he'll probably always be known for wielding the wood, the simple fact that he's known is a wonder at all... and serves as a testament to his work ethic. Shelton started his career by toiling away at Low A Williamsport in '01 and "saw ball, hit ball," as he worked his way up through Mo-Town's minor league system. Never hitting below .305 (aside from a brief, 122 AB AA stint) during his minor league career, Shelton struggled when he "arrived" in '04- by hitting a feeble .196 in 46 appearances. But alas, last season was an entirely different story and Shelton mashed a .299/18/59 line, with a SLG % of .510 in 107 games! Playing in a Tiger offense that DOES have some bite look for Chris Shelton to improve upon a very impressive 2005.
Something akin to .301/26/85 might be on the ambitious side... but heck, I'm a "glass 1/2 full kinda' guy!"

"Amid Season" ... While I did feel that the Detroit franchise sported more talent than many fans gave 'em credit for... I didn't think the club would be sitting atop the entire AL Central (as of Thursday, the Tigers are 1 game ahead of the White Sox)! Who'da thunk it. Well, back to matters at hand. Daaaammmmnn, did Shelton start the season as if his very life depended upon it, or what? The Tiger cornerman roared out of the gate and hammered 9 Homers through the first 13 tilts....unfortunately, he added just 5 more through the next 58. If the Tigers are to retain, and expand upon, their slim lead over the Sox, Shelton must start hitting for power again. As of Thursday, Chris Shelton... a now marginal fantasy player, is hitting .272/14/34/35. My pre-C' projection, aside from batting average, should be right-on.

Oakland A's; Dan Johnson: The A's seem to go through Infielders the way most people go through socks. Come to think of it, Billy Beane may go through socks the way some other GMs go through players... I wonder... Well, anyway, Dan Johnson is one helluva' reach and someone out there is doubtlessly laughing at this pick. Then again, someone laughed at my selections of both Adam LaRoche and Ryan Howard last season, too. Johnson's another guy who paid some heavy Minor League dues... but here again, those dues paid off big time at the major league level. Last season he provided the A's with some pop and a shot in the arm by swatting .275/15/58 in 109 games and demonstrated a keen batting eye by striking out only 52 times in 375 ABs.
A fabulous mid-season fantasy pick-up in most leagues last year, Johnson has the 1B position locked-up this year and should be an even better player after a full off-season and training camp with his Oakie' teammates. Jot down .289/27/75, and if guys such as Bobby Crosby, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Mark Ellis can replicate their '05 numbers... "DJ" could... could be even better!

"Amid Season" ... After starting the season in sluggish fashion (.175 April), as the weather has warmed... so too has Dan Johnson. The A 1st Baseman's batting average has risen each month, but once the summer came round... Dan's bat came 'round. Dude tore opposing pitching UP this month, to the tune of .368/.667/.422, with 4 Home Runs and 5 Doubles. Let me be the first to clue you in; IF DAN JOHNSON REMAINS AVAILABLE IN YOUR LEAGUE... AND YOU NEED AN INFUSION OF POWER? YOU COULD DO A LOT WORSE. PICK HIS A(ss) UP!
Right now, DJ is hitting .246/6/20/22... but my guess is that his hot streak will continue. The A's, as a team, have started to hit collectively and that makes Johnson's job that much easier. Look for a season resembling my .289/27/75 March prediction.

Atlanta Braves; Adam LaRoche: LaRoche... you think that translates to "the roach" in French? I really gotta' look that up. Anyway, the Brave 1st sacker certainly bugged the hell out of opposing pitchers, that's for sure! It seems as if the Braves are constantly re-loading and never have need to rebuild, and LaRoche is part of that process. The fact that there's been no noticeable drop-off in talent over the course of 14 consecutive NL East titles is a testament to the team's scouting acuity and drafting acumen. After batting a respectable .259/20/78 with 28 Doubles and 53 Runs in 141 games, "Roach" need not worry about platooning with anyone at the corner. The position belongs to him, and I think he'll become a 30/90 kind of batter with a little more seasoning.
For '06, though, look for some improvement over last year; .275/25/85 is my prediction.
**NOTE: His brother, Andy, is a hot 3B commodity and plays for the Dodgers. If you're a Baseball card collector... see if you can get your hands on an auto rook'.

"Amid Season" ... Well, here's where it gets a bit ugly. You see where I wrote about the Braves never rebuilding, they merely reload? Yeah, well, scratch out that whole train of thought... 'cause Atlanta is suckin' eggs right now. "The Roach" is having a so-so season. While he's hitting the ball out of the park and might eclipse my projection of 25 Homers', his .239 BA is a bit of a disappointment. He is, however, right on target to plate 85 RBIs.


Chicago White Sox; Jim Thome: Thome's rehabbing a balky back and creaky elbow. If the dude can return to even 75% of what he was during his .274/42/105 season of '04, his owners... and his new team, the Chicago White Sox, will be de-freakin'-lighted! I do, however, look askance at Thome. The 35 year old ball player is good for a strikeout or 3 each game; Thome K'ed 144 times in '04, and 182 times in '03, and EVERY important statistical value is plummeting.
Making a HUGE leap of faith that Jim Thome will be in playing shape by April/May, look for a line of .269/30/95, and at this point... those are VERY zealous projections.

"Amid Season" ... Here again, I bite my tongue and humbly apologize. After an '05 season in which Jim Thome looked old, fragile and limited, Thome has come roaring back and is a fantasy weapon of the most profound proportions. He did suffer a pulled groin muscle, but after missing a little over a week the Sock DH is back, as good as new, and is smackin' the white offa' the ball.
Currently, the White Sock slugger is posting a line of .288/23/59/58, with a semi-preposterous SLG % of .622. So long as Thome continues to see the Baseball the way some see a volleyball, he'll obliterate both my projections and his career marks. How 'bout them apples!

Texas Rangers; Phil Nevin: Nevin, aging, was never happy as a Padre in gargantuan Petco Park and made no secret of his distaste for the digs. An 11 year veteran, Phil was sent to Texas last year... and will have NO shot at getting his ABs as a position player with a young and much better Mark Teixeira entrenched at 1st.
Look for Phil to start the year as the regular DH, but should he struggle... the Rangers have no shortage of replacements. I'd keep well away from Nevin, he's DEEP into the twilight of his career.

"Amid Season" ... Nevin is actually enjoying a bit of a renaissance now that he's away from the Rangers' State Park-esque home. Now a Cubby, Nevin is playing a position and seems to be enjoying himself again. That pleasure is manifesting itself on the diamond where he's hitting a comfy' .228/14/41, with a SLG % of .456. His BA? Eh, it's not going to carry a category, but another 18 or so Dingers' are certainly within reach before September comes calling.

Houston Astros; Jeff Bagwell: Much to his team's dismay, "Bags'" is determined to return even with an arthritic, surgically repaired... yet still weak shoulder.
I had the aging 'Stro pegged as my top "Player in Decline" last season, and fortunately or unfortunately... he didn't... or did, disappoint: it all depends upon how you look at it. He didn't disappoint me as;
A. I didn't draft him.

B. I made the call that he was deteriorating physically and would be an albatross around a fantasy owner's fantasy neck.
During Jeff Bagwell's truncated '05 season he took a grand total of 100 ABs in 39 games, hitting a meager .250/3/19.

"Amid Season" ... Bags', whose 2006 season ended even before it began, has an arthritic shoulder. The only party who has yet to accept that his storied career is at an end is... Bags'.

Pittsburgh Pirates; Sean Casey: Things got awfully ugly for Casey last season and a lack of pop in the Red lineup can't be blamed. After watching his average and power numbers drop like a rock, the Reds saw fit to drop Casey like a rock. Now suiting up for Pittsburgh, Casey's only real protection will be provided by fast-rising LF'er Jason Bay... or it could be the other way around, with Bay serving as Casey's wing-man predicated upon the batting order. Still, such protection is tantamount to guarding the "Crown Jewels" with a Master Combination Lock" and an $8 per hour "Rent-a-Cop." (No offense intended to any Rent-a-Cops who may view this Blog) A quick perusal of Casey's digits; BA in '04 was .324, BA in '05: .312 (eh', not so bad, right? Wait) SLG % in '04 was .534, SLG % in '05: .423. His Home Runs fell from 24 in '04 to 9 in '05, and his RBI total dropped like a lead balloon; 41 RBIs fewer in '05 then '04. Again, I could go on but the numbers get so tedious.
Even if Casey should rediscover his seat-reaching stroke, and that'd be no easy feat mind you, the cast of characters around him in Pittsburgh is substantially diminished from his days in Cincy'.
I'd look for numbers approximating .300/12/55.

"Amid Season" ... Casey at the bat! Leading (alongside young superstar Jason Bay) a peppy but still crappy Pirate squad (17.5 games behind the Cards' qualifies the Buccs' as crappy, to be sure!), the 1st Sacker is hitting .287/3/14... and should approach the timid projection I made for him. Clearly, Casey's nearing the end of the line.


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