Monday, June 26, 2006



"On The Way Up!"

1. Jorge Cantu; Tampa Bay Devil Rays: **CANTU WILL PLAY 2nd WITH SEAN BURROUGHS, NOW A DEVIL RAY. He may still see some action at the corner, however.
Just after the start of last season, the versatile Jorge Cantu proved that 2004's 50 game, .301/2/17 "cup of coffee" was no fluke. Cantu Can-do!" and I pushed for him like a kid pushes for candy last year. Those of you who read my articles in either this Blog or in the "Fantasy Baseball Cafe" are aware that I listed the Tampa infielder as a "Hot 'Wire Grab," and visionary that I am- a blind man could've identified Cantu's HUGE upside. Not diminishing Cantu's value any is his ability to qualify as a 2nd Baseman, with 80 games played at the position last season. Accordingly, the versatile Devil Ray responded to all the attention with a .286/28/117 season.
This Tampa team promises to be a study in speed with LF'er Carl Crawford (46 SB), CF'er Rocco Baldelli (who missed all of '05, but thieved 44 bags between '03 and '04), rookie RF'er Delmon Young (32 SB between Double and Triple A last season), and SS Julio Lugo (overlooked at the position, 39 SB) taking the field in '06. Therefore, Cantu's potential for a big RBI season increases substantially. If there IS a knock on the Ray 3B... it's that he MUST learn to stop chasing balls that are off the plate. Although he's sharpened his batting eye and can turn on the inside pitch in a hurry, Jorge Cantu remains a free swinger.
Let us assume that the Spee-D' D-Ray practices a bit more discretion at the dish, and project for .295/31/125, with 5 SB.

"Amid Season" ... Well, if nothing else, Cantu is NOT splitting so much as a sandwich with Sean Burroughs, whose sorry batting average got him sent down to the minors.
Cantu is hitting the ball, as his .314 BA attests, but with a scant 3 Home Runs and just 22 Ribs', his positional flexibility is where most of his fantasy value lies. Make no mistake, his .310+ BA is a delight... but on the heels of last season's 28 HRs and 40 Doubles, 3 (HRs) and 10 (Doubles) just don't cut it.
Still, Cantu and the Rays look like they might be on the way up... and an owner who is scraping the bottom of the barrell might be willing to deal the young hot-shot.

2. Joe Crede; Chicago White Sox: The long-time White Sock prospect has always been on the "cusp" of stardom and success, he's just never quite made the plunge. Now, in the prime of his career and backed by an aggressive, "Ata' Boy" coach in Ozzie Guillen, Crede could be on the verge of the break-out season the Chicago ownership has been waiting for since... like, '01. Well worth a late round flyer, Crede's got a nice crowd surrounding him in Chicago's lineup.
Without looking for miracles, look for .270/27/80.

"Amid Season" ... Jeez', where do I start? Ozzie Guillen may be an "ata boy" coach," but he's also a run-away train who is embarrassing the city of Chicago, it's franchise and ball players, and Baseball as an entity. Of course... Baseball is allowing Guillen and his mouth to run amok. Reporter Jay Marrioti regularly excoriates the team in his articles. That said, there's something American's cherish and that's called "freedom of the press." So long as Marrioti doesn't pull things from thin air, he has a right to blast the team... he has a right to criticize of he chooses to. Conversely, Guillen does NOT have the right to question his sexual orientation and use harsh invective to do so.
Okay, 'nuff' said on that issue. As for Joe Crede, indeed he's enjoying that break-out season I had planned for him! Sitting on a .307/14/54 line, the red hot Sock is hitting .419 over his last 9 games, with 5 Home Runs and a whopping 15 RBIs. Surrounded by talented batsman such as Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye, and bolstered by excellent pitching, one of the few things that could do the White Sox in is their "ata' boy" coach, Ozzie Guillen. The franchise cannot let Guillen become a bigger distraction then he already is if the team has any designs on making another Series run.
For the record Crede, who is one of the toughest strikeouts in Baseball (just 24 Ks in 254 ABs), will certainly meet... and probably surpass, the .270/27/80 projection I made "back in the day!"

"Comeback Player of the Year"

Nomar Garciaparra; LA Dodgers: Eligible at 3rd and Short', look for Nomah' to play 1st Base for the Dodgers in an effort to keep him healthy and his potentially potent bat in a potentially soft L.A lineup. Assuming Nomar's groin and other muscles remain where they're supposed to (that is attached to the bone) he could return to the land of .295/25/100.

"Amid Season" ... Yep', Nomah' is playing 1st Base and if that guy isn't Baseball's "Comeback Player of the Year" ... I dunno who is. Obliterating all comers, Garciaparra is hitting an eye-opening .362/9/45/45, with 20 Doubles and a SLG % of .584. While his BA will probably settle in around .330, the jolly Dodger is unquestionably enjoying an All-Star and Gold Glove (just 1 error in 56 games at 1st) caliber season. Those owners who elected to gamble a draft pick on the former BoSox star are being well rewarded!

"Top Sleeper"

Garrett Atkins; Colorado Rockies: Last season's rookie success story could become this season's 3rd Base fantasy staple. Hitting in the rare air of Colorado's Coors Field and behind both Todd Helton and emerging Matt Holiday, pitchers will be inclined to go right after Atkins. A well disciplined hitter who should improve upon last season's excellent numbers (.287/13/89), Garrett Atkins has .300 potential and is worthy of a 6th round pick in "Mixed League Formats."
Look for "Axe" to hack his way to something akin to .298/20/110.

"Amid Season" ... A somewhat streaky hitter, the 27 year old Atkins has become an excellent Mixed League option due to his home park and nice average. Currently, "Axe" is swatting .310/10/49/46, with 22 Doubles and a 1 : 1 Walk to Strikeout ratio (32 of each). It would appear as if Atkins is another 3rd Bagger who is dead-on to meet my pre-C' projections.

"Deeper Sleeper"

Ryan Zimmerman; Washington Nationals: After visiting "The Show" for 30 games last season, Zimm' may not be such a "sleeper." Undrafted out of High School, the youngster starred at the University of Virginia, blew-UP for Team USA (while using a wood bat), and subsequently rocketed through the National system. Putting his 58 ABs to excellent use, Washington's future 3rd Baseman hit at an impressive .397 clip, with 10 Doubles and a SLG % of .569. An early favorite for NL "Rookie of the Year" honors, owners belonging to "Mixed Leagues" who wish to snatch him should do so in the later rounds (11th give or take) should be about right and anticipate something like .300/15/75.

"Amid Season" ... Just 22, Zimmerman is a baby to the Bigs' and as such, he's still learning the ropes. Showing great promise, he's hitting a respectable .268/10/47, with 21 Doubles and a Triple. Once he learns the strikezone, the uber-talented Nat' corner infielder will be a .300/30+ fantasy force. With youngsters such as Prince Fielder, Matt Cain, and Anthony Reyes also in the running... it'll take a scorching summer to push Zimmerman to the top of the "NL Rookie of the Year" standings.

"Player In Decline"

Joe Randa; Pittsburgh Pirates: If you belong to a "Mixed League" format... then Randa rates as nothing more than bench-meat. If you participate in an NL only league... then he's actually got some late-round value. A child of the 60's, literally, Randa's old enough (in Baseball terms) to fart dust but still retains some pop, and therefore might be an adequate injury fill-in, #2-3 3rd Bagger', or part-time "Flex" player.
He hit a reasonable .276/17/68 last season, but that was for a far more powerful and talented Red (traded to San Diego during the season) team. There are a few players of consequence on Pittsburgh, such as stud-in-the-raw OF'er Jason Bay , fellow OF'er Jeremy Burnitz, and aging 1st Baseman Sean Casey (also late of the Reds). I would expect Randa's power numbers (a very nice 43 Doubles and 2 Triples in '05) to take a hit as he has light protection and opposing pitchers will have NO compunction about going right at him.
If he can stay healthy and not lose too many at bats to fellow 3rd Baseman Freddy Sanchez (Sanchez is hitting a lights-out .351/4/39), Randa could be as good as .270/15/55.

"Amid Season" ... .245/2/9 ... does that spell it out for ya'?


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