Favorable matchups for the week of April 7th to April 13th:
San Diego: Josh Bard and Michael Barrett were ranked 33rd and 29th in catching runners, so anyone playing San Diego should have a field day. This is great news for speedsters on the Giants such as Eugenio Velez, Dave Roberts, Fred Lewis, and Rajai Davis, and ones on the Dodgers such as Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp, and Juan Pierre. Both teams face the Padres three times next week.
Toronto: Greg Zaun caught just 13 players in 86 tries last year, a horrible 15% CS%. For the week, it is actually great news for Toronto because they play the A’s three times, a team that does not have a single threat to steal bases and the Rangers who have minor threats on the basepaths like Ian Kinsler and David Murphy.
Milwaukee: Jason Kendall gunned down just 20 runners in 131 attempts for a pitiful 15% CS% last year. That means Reds’ like Brandon Phillips, Corey Patterson, Ryan Freel, and Norris Hopper and Mets like Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran will be getting plenty of green lights.
Unfavorable Matchups for the week of April 7th to April 13th:
St. Louis: Yadier Molina was the king of gunning out potential base stealers last year with a 54% CS%. That is bad news for speedy guys on the Astros (Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence) and the Marlins (Hanley Ramirez and Alfredo Amezaga)
Minnesota: Joe Mauer was just a notch below Molina in efficiency with an impressive 53% CS%. That means fewer opportunities for stolen base threats on the Yankees (Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon) and the Royals (Joey Gathright)
Seattle: Kenjii Johjima caught 40 of 86 runners last year. That should limit threats on the Rays (Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton) and Angels (Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar, and Reggie Willits)
Spring Training running stars: Who is for real and who is a fluke? This week we will take a look at the top SB leaders in spring training and predict which ones will carry over to the regular season and which ones are just noise.
Eugenio Velez: Velez was the spring training steals leader, swiping 10 bags in 13 attempts. He doesn’t walk much and only makes decent contact, which will limit the times that he gets on base. There is no questioning his speed, 49 steals in Double-A last year. On the negative side, Double-A catchers caught him stealing 17 times last year. On a very bad Giants team, he should see plenty of playing time, but he may not hit for high average and will offer little else besides the steals.
Reggie Abercrombie: Abercrombie was the runner-up to Velez with 9 steals in 11 tries, but lost his battle for a roster spot to Jose Cruz Jr. That should tell you how highly the Astros think of Abercrombie. He has failed in previous trials with the Marlins, 2006/2007 batting averages of .212/.197). For a player with great speed, but no power, he strikes out way too much (Ct%’s of 69%/71%) and does not work counts (BB/K’s of .23/.09). At 27 years of age, he has already moved from prospect to suspect. He will not play a role in fantasy baseball this year.
Joey Gathright: It seems like Gathright is listed as a source for cheap steals every year. He gave fantasy leaguers hope again this preseason by going a perfect 8 for 8 in the steals department. As a player with zero power, by pounding the ball into the ground, 2006/2007 GB%’s of 67%/66%, he has the right approach to getting on base. However, he is going to need to make batter contact, 2006/2007 Ct%’s of 80%/84%, and improve his plate patience 2006/2007 BB/K’s of .56/.56. With David DeJesus already hurt and Jose Guillen far from certain to remain injury free, Gathright could wind up with significant playing time. If he can improve his patience at the plate and overcome his strange performance on the basepaths last season, 8 caught steals in 17 attempts, he may actually finally be a cheap source of steals.
Carlos Gomez: One of the prizes for Johan Santana, Gomez ran wild during the spring, going a perfect 8 for 8, and it has carried right over to the first game of the season when he swiped 2 bags. Besides having outstanding speed, Gomez has the potential to be a star. The stardom may be a few years away, but if he hits enough to hold onto the starting center field job, he will rack up plenty of steals.
Michael Bourn: With 18 steals in 19 attempts in limited playing time last year, Bourn showed that he has serious wheels. In the off-season, the Astros traded for him and installed him as their starting center fielder. He will need to make better contact, 82% Ct%, but looks like he knows how to work counts, 9.8% BB%. It looks like Cecil Cooper will be giving his players the green light this year. In the preseason, Bourn swiped 8 bases in 10 tries. The speed should carry over to the regular season.
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