Looks like the dreaded "job-share" is in force for the catching position with the Padres, as both Josh Bard and Michael Barrett are likely to get substantial playing time. That, of course, relegates them to lower-tier status in just about all formats, until such time as one of them can usurp a majority of the PT.
The best thing about bad teams is that, at least in the deepest leagues, you can grab some guys late in the draft/auction that will offer you some modest production by the sheer virtue of the amount of their playing time. Dan Ortmeier is one of those guys, assuming that he can at least finish winning an eminently winnable job here in the spring. A 1B that can't slug .410 at AAA isn't anything to get excited about, and at age 27 there's no reason to expect more. Still, he'll get some numbers just because there's really no one else to play there.
Thus far, it looks like Andre Ethier is going to be the odd man out in the Dodgers' continual attempt to justify the contract of Juan Pierre. Joe Torre has plenty of strengths, but jettisoning veteran "talent" at the expense of youngsters is not one of them. Ethier certainly has the potential to offer you average corner OF numbers, but only if he can wrest playing time from the cold, seemingly dead hands of Pierre. Unless your reserve lists are sizable, he's best left untouched for the early part of the season.
With Mike Cameron suspended for much of April, Tony Gwynn could be a decent stopgap in deeper leagues depending on the value of stolen bases in your format. Gwynn isn't going to offer much aside from a decent AVG and the SB, although with only one other weak spot in the lineup (C), he could also score a few runs. As a flier in the late rounds of deeper leagues, he has some value.
The rules state that the Cardinals have to play someone in RF every day, so Brian Barton has a chance to finally earn some major league playing time. Barton turns 26 in April, so he isn't going to develop much more than he already has, but the former Indian farmhand has never posted an OBP below .400 in the minors. That kind of skill would make him a welcome addition to a lineup already expected to contain Yadier Molina, Cesar Izturis, and Adam Kennedy. He also has stolen at least 20 bases in each of his three minor league campaigns. Barton should be available later in most of your drafts, and being able to pick up a player that could provide average production for the position at that point qualifies him as a sleeper this spring.
Troy Percival was still rather effective in his partial season in 2007, so with a quickly improving offense, the new Rays closer isn't someone to forget about here in 2008. 30 saves could be well within his reach once again....that would have to be the first time for the Rays, right?
Going from Texas to Seattle wouldn't usually be expected to result in a better season, but for Brad Wilkerson that may be exactly what happens. At age 30, you certainly wouldn't have expected his skills to atrophy this much, so a bit of a bounceback should be expected for the new Mariner RF, particularly in the OBP category.
Adam Loewen is a guy with a high standard deviation of likely outcomes for 2008, as the relatively high K rate and low HR rate that he offers is offset almost completely by his horrendous control (almost 8 BB/9 in limited time last year, close to 5 the year prior). If he can harness that even a touch, Loewen could provide some solid ERA and K numbers on what will admittedly be an awful team. He shouldn't be drafted early under any circumstances, because the W's and WHIP are likely to be a problem, but he isn't a bad late-round gamble at all.
Franklin Gutierrez acquitted himself well in a part-time role with the Tribe last season, and he might be able to take another step forward here in 2008. Even though it seems like he's been around forever, Gutierrez just turned 25 last week, and he was able to hit 17 homers and steal 15 bags in just 400 AB's last season between AAA and the majors. 20/20 would certainly not be out of the question, and for a player that hit 24 homers in the minors at age 20, even 30 isn't out of the realm of possibility as he gets bigger, stronger, and ideally smarter. With Dellucci and Michaels likely to platoon in the other corner, Gutierrez should be able to garner the lion's share of the RF playing time fairly easily.
One guy I'm intrigued with this spring is Chris Denorfia, a guy that's been stuck behind (seemingly) 27 outfielders in Cincinnati for his entire career. Denorfia has put up a .400 OBP for his last two seasons in AAA, and has just enough power and speed to be a potential 15/15 contributor. I can't imagine the A's are going to give too much time to Emil Brown, especially in center, so if in a few weeks it does indeed look like Denorfia is getting most of the PT, he's a worthwhile late-round sleeper candidate.
Alex Gordon is certainly flying under the radar this year compared to last, but should he be? Is 2006 the best indicator for his future, or is 2007? Lots of questions for Gordon, who has both some disturbing and enticing comparable players (Chavez, Blalock, Bonds) thus far in his short career. An OPS of over 1.000 in AA in his first pro experience shouldn't be waived away in a year, in my opinion, especially with the 76 points increase in his SLG (75% of which was strictly ISO) from the first half of '07 to the second. Another jump of that size wouldn't be a big surprise.
Carlos Gomez will start the spring opener in CF for the Twins today, but Ron Gardenhire doesn't want anyone reading anything into that, as Jason Pridie and Denard Span supposedly have an equal claim to that job right now. Gomez obviously has the most projection of the three, but whichever one wins the job, the best that you're likely to get from them is some stolen bases....none of them are likely to hold down a starting OF job in the majors just yet, and only Gomez shows real signs of enough potential to expect that down the road. All three are best avoided in all but the deepest of formats to start the year.
Jesse Litsch looks like a big candidate for regression to me, with a below-average K rate and no above average indicators save GB%. I can't imagine he won't end up allowing over 10 H/9 this season, and since he isn't extremely stingy with the walks (and allows a decent amount of homers for his GB%), it just doesn't add up to pretty expectations as far as I'm concerned. Gustavo Chacin is no great shakes, but if he's healthy he may turn out to be a better option at #5 than Litsch.
If Livan Hernandez doesn't work out, Nick Blackburn is supposed to be the "next" Twins prospect to jump into the rotation, but I wouldn't get too excited. Unlike Baker, Bonser, Garza, and Liriano, Blackburn really doesn't have the stuff to succeed consistently at the big league level, as partially evidenced by the sub-5.0 K/9 he posted at AAA last year. Of his top-20 comparable players (according to Baseball Prospectus), Carlos Silva is the best of them. After you read that sentence again, you'll understand my hesitancy to put Blackburn withing 100 yards of any squad.