Johan Santana: As if he already wasn’t the best pitcher in baseball, Santana’s move to the Mets gives him two big advantages. The first is that historically lefthanders moving from the American League to the National League tend to have big first years, think Ted Lilly last year. Second, he is moving to a better team in a weaker league, so expect more wins.
Paul Maholm: With a little better luck, 67% strand rate and 12% HR/F% in 2007, Maholm could be of use in NL-only leagues. His skill set is not the one of a dominating pitcher; 5.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, and a 53% GB%, and wins will not be easy to come by with Pittsburgh, 10-15 record last year, which limits his value to just NL-only formats. However his ground ball approach, combined with a decent K/9 and acceptable control could lead to moderate success.
Jack Wilson: Wilson hit a career-high 12 home runs last year, despite having nagging injuries which saw him appearing in the least amount of games, 135, since he became a regular in 2002. The majority of Wilson’s power came in the second half of the season, 8 home runs in 209 AB. After showing such mediocre power the previous two seasons, do not automatically assume that Wilson will be good for double-digit home runs. It would be more believable if he showed that power over another half-season.
Carlos Ruiz: Ruiz will get the bulk of the starts behind the plate for the Phillies this year. The late blooming 29 year-old had a depressed .208 BHIP% in 2007, plus he makes excellent contact, 87%, and can draw walks, 10% BB%, so he should be able to improve on his .259 batting average from last year. His power is about league average, just 6 home runs in 374 AB, but he did have 29 doubles. If some of those doubles turn into home runs, a very good chance in his home park, Ruiz could be an option in mixed leagues.
Matt Garza: Garza, who was acquired from the Twins in the off-season, is assured of a spot in the Rays rotation. He had a decent debut with the Twins last year, 5-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 83 innings, backed up by good skills; 7.3 K/9, and a 48% GB%. If he can improve on the walks, 3.5 BB/9, he could be a productive starter, even in mixed leagues.
Jason Bartlett: The Rays will probably start the season batting Bartlett in the lower end of the order, but if Akinori Iwamura doesn’t cut it as a lead-off hitter, Bartlett could slide into that role. After stealing 10 bases in 15 tries in 2006, Bartlett took advantage of his speed skills last year, swiping 23 bases in 26 tries. Considering that he was slowed by a hamstring injury from August until the end of the season and that his new team runs more than the Twins, he can easily top last year’s stolen base numbers, especially if he moves to the top of the order.
Pat Burrell: With a complete lack of speed, poor contact skills (2006/2007 Ct%’s of 72%/75%), and a high FB% (2005/2006/2007 FB%’s of 45/48/51), Burrell will most likely not hit for a high average, 2006/2007 batting averages of .256/258. What Burrell does bring to the table is power, 2005/2006/2007 home runs of 32/29/30, fully supported by the growing FB% and a very homer-friendly home park. If you have a bunch of high average, speed guys with little power, Burrell is the perfect complement to add to your team.
Brad Thompson: The Cardinals may want to rethink their decision to put Thompson in the starting rotation. If the declining trends in Thompson's skill set continue, 2005/2006/2007 GB%'s of 57%/55%/50% and K/9's of 4.6/5.1/3.7, he will be better off being used in middle relief or specific situations rather than being exposed for longer periods as a starter.
Nomar Garciaparra: Garciaparra wrist injury looks like it will keep him out for the beginning of the season. When he does return, Garciaparra will resume showing us how much his game has fallen. He still makes great contact, 90% last year, but his power, 7 home runs and 17 doubles in 431 AB, and speed, just 3 steals, have declined to such an extent, it is hard to believe that the Dodgers cannot do better than the 34-year old Garciaparra as their starting third baseman.
Mark Kotsay: The Braves will not get much out of Kotsay as their starting center fielder. Injuries and age have taken away his power and speed. He still makes good contact, 91% Ct, and can take a walk, 1.08 BB/K, so he has chance to improve on the .214 batting average that he put up last year, but don’t expect help in any other areas.
Mike Pelfrey: Pelfrey was hit hard on Sunday, 8 ER in 4.1 innings against the Cardinals, putting his chances of being the Mets 5th starter in doubt. In the minors, Pelfrey has shown a ground ball/strikeout package, that has yet to transfer to the major leagues, 2006/2007 K/9’s of 5.5/5.6. He has also struggled with control in the big leagues, 2006/2007 BB/9’s 5.1/4.8. There is a good chance that he will start the season in the minors. If success at the major league level continues to elude him, the 24-year-old will quickly go from prospect to suspect.
Jason Hammel: Hammel has earned a spot in the Rays starting rotation. He struggled with the Rays last year, 6.14 ERA in 85 innings, but his 6.1 K/9 and 2007 Triple-A numbers; 3.42 ERA and 8.8 K/9 in 76.1 innings, shows some nice potential. However before any success will arrive, he will need to exhibit better control, 4.2 BB/9, and find a better approach against left-handed batters, .310 batting average in 2007.
Kyle Kendrick: Despite having a rough spring, 9.68 ERA in 17.2 innings, Kendrick will have a spot in the Phillies’ starting rotation. He had an impressive debut last year, 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 20 starts, but his skill set; 3.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, and a 47% GB%, and 74% strand rate say that there is a much better chance of his numbers regressing this year rather than improving.
Willy Aybar: Aybar should make the Rays roster and could find some playing time. He was once considered at top prospect, but he was derailed by personal problems which forced him to miss all of 2007. When he last played in 2006, Aybar displayed some nice power, just 4 home runs but 18 doubles in 243 AB and 10 home runs in 197 Triple-A AB, along with a good approach at the plate, 10.3 BB% and an 85% Ct%. If he picks up where he left off and some playing time pans out, he may just produce some good fantasy numbers.
Evan Longoria: The Rays sent Longoria to Triple-A. It certainly was not because of his spring training performance, 3/9/.313 in 32 AB, or because the likes of Eric Hinske and Willy Aybar are better options at third base. The Rays clearly sent Longoria down to delay the start of the arbitration and free agent clock, which means they will not recall him for at least two months. If you paid up for him, consider it the equivalent of a player getting hurt and being out for 8 weeks.
David Price: Price, who was the first pick in the 2007 draft, is expected to miss 6 weeks with a strained muscle in his forearm. Considering that he has yet to pitch a game in professional baseball, this injury makes it doubtful that Price will contribute anything to the big league club this year. He is only worth holding onto in leagues with very deep reserve lists.
Freddy Sanchez: It looks like the pain that Sanchez has been experiencing in his surgically repaired shoulder is from inflammation. He will not play the field for a few days and should be ready for opening day. Sanchez has been a reliable contributor in the batting average department the last few seasons, 2005/2006/2007 averages of .291/.344/.304, due to good contact skills, Ct%’s of 92%/91%/87%. However his growing FB%, 31%/36%38%, combined with a power spike in the second-half of last year, 10 home runs in 323 AB, means he might be trading in some batting average points for power numbers.