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2009 Preseason Prep - March 13th

Michael Leone

Kansas City
David Dejesus – The Royals are considering shifting Dejesus from the leadoff role to the number 3 slot in the lineup. That would boost Dejesus’ values, when he seems poised to have one of his best professional seasons. For one thing, the lineup around him is developing and may be the most talented since he’s been there. Also, his power is developing. Last year, at age 28, he posted a career high HR rate of 2.1. That’s not high, but it was certainly an improvement which led to Dejesus’ first ever double digit HR season. If he continues to improve in that department, Dejesus could approach 20 HR – we have him projected for 18. He might not hit .307 again (singles average 34 points above 3 year average), but the 24.7% LD% he posted last year shows Dejesus hits the ball hard and should be close to .290. If Dejesus does indeed bat third, he could be a decent OF sleeper – someone who goes 80/80, posts double digit HR and steals, and is not detrimental to your average.

Mark Teahen – Teahen hit his first Spring Training homer of the season yesterday. There is some optimism around Teahen this year that he could possibly be a quality 5 tool fantasy producer. He has been a relative disappointment the past two seasons, after teasing fantasy owners in 2006. That year Teahen hit .290 with 18 homers and 10 steals in just 109 games. However, in the past two seasons, he has just 23 HR and 17 steals combined. So, will he make good on the promise he showed in ’06 as he enters ’09 at the mythical age of 27? Or will he disappoint for a third season in a row? The evidence points toward the latter, for a variety of reasons. Let’s address the power first. His 4.2 HR rate in 2006 does not appear repeatable. First of all, Teahen had a 16.5 HR/FB% that year, which seems out of line for him. He is more likely to have a HR/FB% around 11%. His mark last year was 11.2%, and his career mark is 10.6%. Secondly, Teahen does not put the ball in the air as much as did in 2006. That season, he had a GB/FB ratio of 1.38 (not very good to begin with), but the past two seasons it grew to 1.71 and 1.60 respectively. Thus, Teahen’s HR rate is much more likely to be around the 1.2 and 2.4 marks he posted the last two seasons, rather than near the 4.2 mark during 2006. In terms of average, his power numbers carried him to a .290 mark in 2006. His incredibly lucky singles average (.294 in ’07 versus ‘05/’06/’08 averages of .233/.260/.246) explain his .285 average in ’07. So, in actuality, Teahen’s .255 average that he posted last season may be most indicative of his skill set, especially when taking into account his declining plate discipline (.47/.43/.35 EYE the past three season). On top of all this, Teahen’s steals inexplicably dropped to just 4 last season. Don’t expect much improvement, if any out of Teahen, as the promise he showed in 2006 was a fluke.

Colorado
Garrett Atkins – Fantasy owners should expect more of the same Atkins we saw last season, not the dominant fantasy producer of ’06 and ’07. His ISO power has declined the past two seasons: .228/.185/.165. He is losing Matt Holliday, obviously the key component of Colorado’s lineup in recent history. Also, his plate discipline has gone south and fast. In 2006 he had an EYE of 1.04, but in 2007 that dropped to .70. Last season it dropped again, to .40. The steepness of those drops, two years in a row, is definitely cause for concern. As a result, another season like 2008 is on the horizon for Atkins. 2008 was not a failure by any means, but Atkins certainly did not live up to the high standards that he had set in the previous two years. Players such as Aubrey Huff, Ryan Zimmerman, Jorge Cantu, and Alex Gordon will provide equivalent fantasy value and respectively they are going 1 round, 3 rounds, 6 rounds, and 8 rounds after Atkins on average.

Aaron Cook – Cook had an impressive Spring Training outing the other day. He dominated the Indians over 5 innings as he struck out 7 batters and walked none. Sure, it’s only Spring Training, but if Cook continues to show an ability to strike out batters it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for. Cook is coming off his best professional season. He went 16-9 last year and posted an ERA of 3.96 and WHIP of 1.34. The reason for the mini-breakout was that Cook posted his best K rate of his career, striking out 4.09 batters per 9 IP. Admittedly, that is not very impressive, but it is a large improvement over the 3.31 K/9 he posted the previous season. If Cook can make another such leap this year, it would mean another step forward. Usually, I am casting aside pitchers with such low K rates, but Cook does not walk a lot of batters (2.04/9 last year). More importantly he is amazing groundball pitcher. His career GB/FB ratio of 2.49 has allowed him to be a major league starter in Colorado despite his low K rate. Imagine what he could do if that K rate continues to climb, and there is reason to believe it will. Last year, Cook threw his fastball 81.9% of the time, which is right in line with his career mark. However, he threw his slider 12.2% of the time, almost twice as much as in previous years. It seems as if Cook’s secondary pitch has shifted from a curveball to a slider, and this adjustment could explain his improved performance in terms of strikeouts. As I said before, if Cook continues to miss bats this spring he might turn into an excellent value pick come draft day.

Toronto
Lyle Overbay – Overbay has been a disappointment since joining the Blue Jays in 2006. He had success in his first season, hitting .312 with 22 HR, but has not come close to those numbers the past two years. He suffered a broken hand in 2007, which has not made Overbay’s struggles at the dish any easier. There is reason to believe that ’09 could be kinder to Overbay. Last season, Overbay posted his lowest GB/FB ratio of his career. If he continues down that path, we could see an increase in his power numbers. We didn’t see the full impact of this last year, as Overbay’s HR/FB% was 1.5 points below his career average. Also in 2008, Overbay had his highest LD% since joining the Blue Jays. However, Overbay, who does not have terrible a difference in his left/righty splits over his career, could not hit left handed pitchers for the life of him in 2008. He hit .215/.285/.255 against them to give him a putrid OPS of .540. If Overbay can make good on his increased LD% and FB% and hit lefties like he previously has over his career (.272/.315/.413) then he could be in store for a rebound ’09. This is a critical year for Overbay, who may find himself out of Toronto after the season if he is not able to turn around what has been a rough couple of seasons.

David Purcey – Last week, I discussed Brett Cecil and his potential to have some fantasy impact as a rookie if he breaks into Toronto’s rotation. Another young arm, one of many that Toronto figures to send to the hill this year, that could do some damage is that of David Purcey. Purcey, unlike Cecil, already has some major league experience. He started 12 games for the Blue Jays last season. Most of the time, Purcey was hit hard. He posted an ERA of 5.54 and went just 3-6. Purcey was a tad unlucky, though. His expected ERA showed his ERA should have been 76 points lower. His LOB% of 67.5% is low for a strikeout pitcher, which brings me to an important point. Purcey, even in his first ML go around, showed he was capable of getting outs via the strikeout. He struck out 8.03 batters per 9 IP. The only problem was he also walked 4 every 9 IP, giving him a K/BB ratio of only 2. If Purcey has a little bit more luck and shows more control (which his ’07 and ’08 minor league record shows is possible) then he could very well be an effective pitcher in AL leagues.

Nate McLouth – Often times when a player like McLouth has a breakout year he is extremely overrated in drafts the following year. Maybe it’s because he plays in Pittsburgh, but the opposite seems to be happening to McLouth. That should not be the case. McLouth has a decent EYE of .70 that is trending upwards (.31 and .51 the past two seasons). He also puts the ball in the air a lot (44.9 FB% for his career), and that makes him a safe bet to duplicate his 20 HR season. He had 76 EBH in ’08. Yet, he remains undervalued. BJ Upton is going in round 3; McLouth can be had in round 6 and provide you similar numbers, less 20 steals.

Manny Ramirez – Manny claimed that age might be catching up to him as he was scratched before yesterday’s exhibition game. Obviously Manny was just making light of the situation, but it’s still something fantasy owners and Dodger fans alike don’t want to hear. Despite Manny’s monster numbers from his time in LA last year, he is 37 YO and is starting Spring Training late this season. Don’t want to make too much out of nothing, but it will be interesting to see if Manny will be able to hit the ground running come Opening Day. For now, though, the tightened hamstring that kept Manny out of yesterday’s game appears to be anything but serious, and he is expected to DH today.

John Smoltz – If you play in a league that affords you lots of bench spots or a couple of IR spots, it might not be a bad idea to take a late chance on Smoltz and stash him away. Sure, he is unlikely to make an appearance in the Sox rotation until June, but he will be effective once he does. Smoltz is definitely getting older, but it hasn’t impacted his effectiveness. Since moving back to a starting role in 2005, Smoltz has averaged almost 15 wins a season and has actually shown improvement with K/BB ratios in ’05/’06/’07 respectively of 3.19/3.84/4.19 , all greater than his career mark of 3.09. Not to mention, Smoltz had an astounding 81% quality start percentage in his last full season, which should translate to plenty of wins in Boston.

Nick Markakis – A few indicators point towards Markakis having a huge 2009 season. He made an impressive leap with his plate discipline posting an EYE of .88 (.60 and .54 his first two seasons). He also stroked 48 doubles, and at age 25 there’s a good chance some of those doubles turn into HR. On top of that, Markakis posted a career best LD% of 21.1%. We have his projected BA/OBP/SLG line at .310/.411/.519; all would be career highs.

Johan Santana – Santana made his Spring Training debut yesterday, after having his original debut pushed back due to elbow soreness. It wasn’t pretty as the Mets’ ace allowed 3 runs in 2 and two-thirds innings of work. The important thing, though, is that Santana felt good out on the mound and was able to throw all of his pitches. This is encouraging new for fantasy owners who are hoping Santana will be ready by Opening Day.

Matt Holliday – Holliday should post another great fantasy season and be a top OF once again, but his home/road splits are something to be aware of now that he won’t spend half of his games in the hitter friendly Coors Field. For his career, he is a .357/.423/.645 hitter at Coors field. Everywhere else, he’s been pretty much just another guy, hitting .280/.348/.455.

Chris Young – In leagues where you could afford to use Young as a spot starter, you might be able to draft him at an incredible value for those who shy away from him because of his injury problems in the past. At Petco field, he has a career 2.98 ERA and WHIP of 1.12 in 217 IP. He is so successful there because of his high K rate (.92/.97/.91 the past three seasons) and the spacious combines of Petco dramatically reduce the risk a FB pitcher of Young’s type (.53 career GB/FB ratio) usually is.

Adam Dunn – In roto leagues, Dunn might be a bit overrated because his consistently low average will kill you. However, in points leagues it’s his consistency that I like a lot. He hit 38 HR last seasons and 40 every year for the four years prior to that. He has over 100 walks every year. He is just over 100 RBI’s every year. His RS totals are near 100 every year. In the variable world of fantasy baseball, every once in a while it’s nice to nab a player with whom you know what you are going to get – this also allows you to value him properly come draft day.

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