Jason Jennings: Jennings, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon, has a chance to earn a spot in the Rangers starting rotation this year. You can throw out last season’s disaster, 0-5 with an 8.56 ERA, due to injuries, but a disturbing trend in his FB%, 2005/2006/2007 FB%’s of 27%/37%/43%, makes him an extremely poor fit for cozy Ameriquest Field even if he is healthy.
Adam Eaton: The Phillies released Eaton, but he will definitely get a chance somewhere else. In 2005, Eaton was a legitimate starting pitcher, 11-5 with 4.27 ERA, fully supported by his skill set; 7.0 K/9 and a 3.1 BB/9, but since then it has been all downhill, 2006/2007/2008 ERA’s of 5.12/6.29/5.80. Pitching in two of the leagues most hitter friendly parks has not helped, but there has also been a noticeable deterioration in his skills, 2006/2007/2008 K/9’s of 6.0/5.4/4.8 and BB/9’s of 3.3/4.0/3.7. Even if he lands in the right situation, it is doubtful he has the skills to make a fantasy impact.
Akinori Iwamura: Manager Joe Maddon said that he's considering moving Iwamura from the leadoff spot. The only real skill Iwamura possesses that would make him a good leadoff hitter is plate patience, 10% BB% in 2008. He has speed, 19 triples in 2 seasons, but is a very poor base stealer, 20 steals but 14 caught steals during that same period. Expect BJ Upton to leadoff with Carl Crawford batting second for the Rays this year.
Luis Rodriguez: Rodriguez has the inside track to be the Padres starting SS this year. His one talent on the offensive end is the ability to make contact, 94% Ct% last year. However, he does not hit the ball hard, 0 home runs in 202 AB, or steal bases, which pretty much makes him worthless in Fantasy Baseball.
Milton Bradley: Bradley left Thursday’s game after only one AB with tightness in his left quadriceps. It is doubtful that the injury is serious, but it is a reminder that despite the potential to put up big numbers, 22/77/.321 in just 414 AB last year, Bradley will always be a big injury risk, 2005/2006/2007/2008 games played of 75/96/61/126.
Josh Barfield: Barfield has a chance to win the Indians’ second base job this spring. After an impressive rookie campaign in 2006, 13/58/.280 with 21 steals, it is hard to believe how hard and fast Barfield has fallen, 3/50/.243 in 2007 and just 33 AB in the majors last year. Barfield’s problem seems to be his approach at the plate, 2006/2007 BB%’s of 5%/3% and Ct%’s of 85%/79%, and he did not show any improvement in Triple-A last year, 5% BB% and an 81% Ct%. Even if he breaks camp with the Indians, major league pitchers know that they don’t have to give him any good pitches to hit.
Doug Mientkiewicz: The Dodgers invited Mientkiewicz to spring training where he has a chance to win a job as a pinch-hitter and late inning defensive replacement. With his excellent glove, lack of power at a power position (just 2 home runs in 285 AB), and outstanding approach at the plate (13% BB% and 90% Ct%) that is the role he is best suited for at this point in his career.
Brett Gardner: Trying to stake a claim to the Yankee’s starting CF job, Gardner reached base three times and stole two bags as the Yankees' leadoff man on Friday. Gardner is very fast, 13 steals in 14 attempts in just 42 games with the Yankees last year, but without any power, he is going to have to show major improvements in his approach at the plate, 6% BB% and a 74% Ct% in 127 AB in 2008. His 17% BB% in Triple-A gives hope for one-half of the equation but his 78% Ct% against the lesser competition down there does not give much hope that Gardner can hold down the full-time job with the Yankees.
Bobby Kielty: Kielty, who is trying to earn a spot on the Mets bench, hit a three-run homer yesterday. He has decided to give up switch-hitting and concentrate on just swinging from the right-side. A look at his splits, RHB/LHB batting averages' of .322/.226 in 2005, .325/.229 in 2006, .260/.162 in 2007, shows that it is a very good idea. Even if he earns a spot on the Mets, the occasional start against a southpaw and pinch-hitting appearances will not give him any fantasy value.
Livian Hernandez: Hernandez threw two scoreless innings against the Cardinals which keeps him in the running to be the Mets’ fifth starter. His declining strikeouts, 2006/2007/2008 K/9’s of 5.3/4.0/3.4, combined with the increased frequency of line drives, 20%/21%/22%, shows that hitters are feasting on his pitches. Even if he wins the job, chances are, he won’t hold it for too long.
Mets: Despite some talk from Jerry Manuel about Ryan Church sitting against left-handers, it looks like the Mets are planning on going with a Fernando Tatis/Danny Murphy platoon in LF, which limits both of them to NL-only formats. After basically missing 5 years of Major League Baseball (he had 56 AB with the Orioles in 2006), at the age of 34, Tatis is having a second act in his major league career. He still has nice pop in his bat, 28 extra-base hits in 273 AB last year, and a good enough approach at the plate for a power-hitter, 10% BB% and a 78% Ct%. His splits against RHP/LHP of .287/.311 do not indicate that he needs to be platooned, in fact 10 of his 11 home runs came against right-handed pitching. If Murphy suffers a sophomore jinx, Tatis could handle the everyday job.
Murphy had nice major league debut last year, 2/17/.313 in 131 AB. However beneath the surface there are some cracks, his average was aided by a .303 BHIP% and his Ct% took a hit when he reached the major leagues, Triple-A/MLB Ct%’s of 87%/79%. He is not hitting for enough power to have a sub 80% Ct%. There is some speed here, 3 triples with the Mets, but it does not look like he is ready to be a big SB contributor yet, 0 for 2 in steals. Don’t pay up for Murphy based on his batting average last year.
Phillies: Kyle Kendrick appears to be the favorite to snag the Phillies 5th starter spot. After a nice debut in 2007, 10-4 with a 3.47 ERA, Kendrick’s sophomore season was a disappointment, 11-9 with a 5.49. As a ground ball pitcher without much power, 2007/2008 GB%’s of 47%/44% and K/9’s of 3.6/3.9, it is not hard to see where it went wrong for Kendrick last year. When his lost his pinpoint control, BB/9’s of 1.9/3.3, and left the ball up in the zone, he became very hittable. At most Kendrick is an end-game flyer in NL-only leagues.
Carlos Carrasco, who turns 22 on March 21st, has an outside shot of supplanting Kendrick for the 5th spot. He will need to greatly improve his control, 2007/2008 Double-A BB/9’s of 5.9/3.5, before he has any chance of major league success. Expect him to pitch in Triple-A for most of 2009.
Pirates: Two pitchers who have had some degree of success in the past, Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny, are candidates for spots in an unsettled Pirates rotation.
Duke burst onto the scene in 2005, 8-2 with a 1.81, with good skill support, 6.2 K/9 and a 2.4 BB/9, but since then his skills, 2006/2007/2008 K/9’s of 4.9/3.4/4.2, and ERA, 4.47/5.53/4.82, have both gone downhill. He is still only 25 years of age, he turns 26 on April 19, but the more distant 2005 becomes without any sign of recapturing those skills, the less likely it becomes that he will be an effective pitcher.
Gorzelanny’s success is more recent, 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 2007, but he completely lost the plate last year, 6.0 BB/9 in 21 starts, and his record showed it, 6-9 with a 6.66 ERA. 2007 was the only season that Gorzelanny had even decent control, 3.0 BB/9, so there is a better chance of his season being somewhere in between 2007 and 2008’s numbers rather than improving on 2007.
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