Over the weekend the Twins signed Joe Crede to a one-year, $2.5M contract with incentives that could pay him more than $4.5M more if he can stay healthy throughout the upcoming season. He gets additional money at 250 ABs and 525 ABs and there lies the key to projecting 2009 for Joe. The task is to project the unprojectable, namely, how healthy he will be.
The bad news is that Joe has had to surgically repair the same herniated disc in each of the last two seasons. The good news is that after the first surgery in 2007, Joe returned to the lineup in 2008 and made the AL All-Star team before reherniating the disc after 97 games (.248/17/55). Joe says the second surgery last season was much easier to rehab and he feels he is "pretty close" to 100% as he joins the Twins.
In the 502 ABs Joe collected over the last two seasons he produced 21 HRs and 77 RBI which wouldn't be too far off of expected norms. His BB%, K% held near his historic norms leading into both his 2007 surgery and and 2008 surgery. His SLG% dipped to .317 prior to his first procedure (.447 career) but rebounded to .460 last year.
We can assume with moderate safety that the procedures will not rob Joe of power potential, and to this point his back issues haven't undermined his zone command. His career 162-game average is .257/25/86 over 562 ABs. I'll buy that rate for this season but of course 562 ABs is out of the question. Given, a reasonable projection of 400+ ABs Joe should produce close to 20 HRs and 60 RBI. You aren't in great shape if he's is your starting 3B, but in reasonably deep leagues as a CI or UT, Crede should be useful as long as you build a backup plan into your roster.
Keep in mind however that in 2008 U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago ranked as the second most HR friendly ballpark in the majors behind Camden Yards, while the Metrodome ranked 21st.
The Twins announced on Tuesday that right hander Boof Bonser will need at least exploratory surgery on his right shoulder. The team's medical staff reviewed Bonser's MRI and felt that despite the lack of obvious structural damage, it was time to scope the shoulder and clean out the area. Bonser will miss a minimum of several weeks, but we'll need to wait until after the procedure to get a true prognosis. In the meantime Phil Humber looks like the likely beneficiary as he becomes the front runner for a long relief slot beside Matt Guerrier. Jason Jones, R.A. Dickey, and Sean Henn will garner consideration as well.
Barring the unforseen in Fort Myers over the next 5 weeks, a member of the Twins coaching staff says the clubs rotation is fairly set as follows, in order: Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Nick Blackburn. The order is designed to alternate lefties and righties which explains Blackburn at #5.
Glen Perkins became even more of a two-pitch pitcher in his first full tour at the MLB level last year, opting for fastball or change nearly 85% of the time. A hitter had a 70% chance last year of guessing right while sitting on Glen's fairly middle-of-the-road fastball. Perkins' predictability in part led to a .310 BHIP%, contributing to a 1.47 WHIP, which, coupled with an anemic 4.4/9 K rate meant a lot of potential for trouble. He was saved to an extent by a favorable 75.8% strand percentage which capped his ERA at 4.41
The Twins installed a slider last year, which didn't look good, but coming just 4% of the time it had the element of surpise and opponents hit just .250 off of it. They weren't much more effective against his curve (12%) at .257, but again it probably had more to do with timing and surprise than it had to do with the quality of the pitch. To be effective Glenn will have to develop his off speed pitches to move hitters off of his fastball.
Last year hitters hit .292 with a .995 OPS off Perkins in pitches 46 through 60, posting 10 of the 25 HRs he allowed. Perkins is too easy to time right now and his stuff isn't good enough to beat hitters who aren't fooled.
The signing of Garrett Anderson shuffles the Braves outfield deck with perhaps Matt Diaz feeling the playing time pinch most of all. But the big league openings for Josh Anderson, Brandon Jones, Gregor Blanco, and Jordan Schafer got considerably smaller as well. Blanco's biggest asset was the fact he is a left-handed hitter and the fact that he can't play CF would seem to shuffle him out of the picture.
The Braves' battle in center field will probably center on Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer. Anderson looks like the early favorite as Schafer may be ticketed for more seasoning to start the season.
Anderson not only fits the center field opening, he has a sorely-needed lead off skill set. In 494 ML ABs with the Braves last season, Josh hit .314 with a .358 OBP. While his 5.7% BB rate wasn't eye-catching, he maintained an 11.5% K rate, putting the ball in play with a .349 BHIP%.
And oh ya ... he stole 42 bases.
In 136 MLB ABs last year, Josh's K% took a nose dive as he fanned 24.3% of the time. He still maintained a .294 AVG due to a healthy .370 BHIP%. Something has to give this year and hopefully Josh can improve what he can control, namely his K rate. If he can simply halve the difference between his AAA contact skills and his MLB contact skills, he could be a significantly valuable fantasy property, especially if he can approach the 40 SBs he's rung up in the last three pro seasons in which he's seen 490+ ABs
Of course the Braves are rarely reluctant to throw a talented player in the deep end and teach him how to swim, and Schafer can win the job with a good spring. That's what would make Anderson a risky pick if your draft were to be held today. Fortunately we have a month of camp ahead to try and sort this out.
Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami has been impressive early in Braves camp in Orlando through two live BP sessions. In his second outing the 33-year-old Kawakami mixed in his cutter and curve, drawing good reviews from the manager "I can see why he was a star over there" said Bobby Cox. He's schedule to see his first spring training action on Friday on Friday against the Pirates. Kawakami leads with a very low 90s fastball but adds a good cutter and curve. He won 112 games in 11 seasons in Japan collecting a Japanese Cy and the Central League MVP in 2004 (17-7, 3.32)
It's not your fathers Red Sox anymore. The biggest ripples in what promises to be the calmest Red Sox training camp in memory will probably come from the battle for the starting SS job between Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo. Unfortunately many times these things aren't determined on merit alone, otherwise this "battle" would be a non-starter.
Lugo's 261 ABs in 2008 produced a .268/.355/.685 slash line with a HR and 27 RBI and he fanned 19.5% of the time ... you see the problem. And that was an improvement over his 570 ABs in 2007 in which his slash line was .237/.294/.643. He did manage to drive in 71 runs that year in the midst of a great Red Sox offense.
Lugo is not a big market ever day player at this point in his career but we have all seen what often happens when a team has to chose between a veteran player and a young player who has "options". We aren't referring to minor league options here, but Jed Lowrie offers options to the Red Sox that Julio Lugo doesn't.
First and foremost the Red Sox aren't looking to trade Jed and don't need to worry about splitting the lone atom of his trade value by leaving him on the bench. Secondly Jed is young enough to except a utility role with enthusiasm, and capable enough to make himself quite valuable at SS, 3B or 1B. The Dodgers will happily tell you that Lugo is not suited to a utility role. Finally Lowrie is himself an option. The option the Red Sox will take at some point this season after they trade Lugo or decide they have had enough.
Jed's stint in the majors last year was scuttled by a 26.2% K rate. That needs to get better but his 20.6% rate in AAA in 2007 and his 21.7% rate in his second tour of AAA in 2008 says it is unlikely to get much better. Beyond that Jed is a fantasy tweener, with not quite enough power or speed to be overly valuable, even less so with only 300 ABs, which would be a good total this season. Jed is a better hitter than Lugo now and should improve. He is as good a SS as Lugo is now. He should be the starter. But practicality dictates the Sox starting the season with Lugo and hoping for the best. Lowrie will stick with the Red Sox in a utility/apprentice role.
That having been said ... neither player is a great play this season. The Red Sox will likely start the year with Lugo as their SS, finding as much time as possible for Lowrie. They may be able to trade Lugo at some point this season, but they owe him $18M over this season and next, which doesn't exactly make his stat line look any better to potential trade partners. Lowrie does hit well enough to be a fantasy contributor once he gets a full time role ... if, that is .. his full time role comes at SS. There are some questions whether he is a plus defensively at the position but he proved last year that he's passable. Should he get that job at 3B, through say an injury to Mike Lowell, he will be a less than average producer for the position.
On Monday Brad Penny faced live batters for the first time since last September and accomplished the one thing he needed to accomplish which was to answer, in his own mind, the question of how healthy he was. That hurdle cleared, Penny can now focus on honing his command and polishing his secondary pitches.
That same hurdle being cleared in our minds we can start to speculate about what he might accomplish in 2009. We are currently projecting 184 IP at 4.21 with a 1.36 WHIP. I'm thinking that the Red Sox have the depth in their pitching staff, and the organizational patience to make that 184 IP the high end of the range, but otherwise I feel good about Anthony's projection. I also think that's a relatively safe estimate of performance.
Given the quality of the Red Sox coaching staff and medical team (a key factor in Penny's decision to come to Boston), the fact that he'll be throwing to Jason Varitek, with John Smoltz just down the dugout bench, and considering he'll be pitching in front of what should be a very good bullpen, Penny may be capable of beating those numbers by a significant margin.
The day-after medical update on Jason Schmidt's scoreless IP on Monday? "It felt like I had thrown five innings. It was a little sore in an area where it should be sore. It's a good thing I'm not throwing a bullpen today. Overall, I'd say it came out good. I mean, I don't need a cortisone shot, so that's good, right?"
That's quite a contrast to Brad Penny's reaction on Tuesday and it should look like a red flag to you. The best face we can put on this right now is that Jason is a completely unknown quantity. As such, we need more data. There's no reason to even rank him on your draft list until he accumulates a couple of exhibition IPs. As it stands he's penciled in to throw in a "B" game tomorrow but he will be evaluated again today before handing him the ball.
Vernon Wells believes he can be ready before Opening day despite the Jays' medical staff's estimate of a 4-week recovery period, and his own history of needing a month to recover from the same injury last year. Wells says his injury is not as severe as last year's Grade 2 strain and if this had been the regular season he may have been able to play through it.
Gary Sheffield was plunked on top of his left elbow by a Chris Lambert pitch on Tuesday during live BP but he doesn't appear to be significantly injured. After being iced Sheffield declared himself fit for today's spring training opener against the Braves.
One day after taking his first swings since offseason kidney surgery, Joe Mauer said he was pain-free. At this point the Twins expect Joe to be ready on Opening Day.
Aaron Harang reported to camp down 25 pounds from last season in an attempt to rebound from a disappointing 2008 season which saw him go 6-17, 4.78, 1.38. That weight loss will help of course, but a large part of last year's problems was a strained right forearm that landed him on the DL in early July. The eight starts prior to his going on the DL produced a 7.31 ERA. Those eight starts were preceded by Harang's only relief appearance of the season, a 63-pitch, 4 inning outing on 2 days rest in late May. After returning from the DL, Harang made 5 starts in July and August giving up 25 runs in 24.2 IP but when September rolled around, Aaron posted a 3.07 ERA over 6 starts and 41.0 IP.
Clearly Harang was effected by Dusty Baker hanging him out to dry in that relief appearance. If we take his April performance of 2.98 in 42.1 IP (before the injury in May) and his September performance of 3.07 in 41.0 IP after recovering from the injury, and we see an effective pitcher. Aaron will be one of this years best draft bargains in many leagues and owners in the know will be able to place him in a #4 slot at very reasonable price. Those owners will net the kind of performance profits that help win titles.