Eric Chavez: Chavez has been fielding ground balls and should be ready to start hitting in 4 to 5 days. There was a time when Chavez was a consistent, legitimate power source at the hot corner, 2002/2003/2004/2005 home runs of 34/29/29/27, but has been mostly injured over the last two seasons, 2007/2008 games played of 90/23. He is still only 31 years of age, so if he is fully healthy, the power should still be there. However assuming that there are no lingering problems with the shoulder and that he can play a full season is a huge risk.
Franklin Morales: Morales is in a battle with Greg Smith for the 5th spot in the Rockies starting rotation. After a nice debut in 2007, 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA in 8 starts, Morales had a rough 2008, 1-2 record with a 6.39 ERA in 5 starts and a 5.47 ERA in 21 Triple-A starts, which some have attributed to an undisclosed back problem. Reportedly his velocity is back up to his 2007 levels, which should give him the edge over Smith. Morales has not been a big strikeout pitcher at the big league level, 2007/2008 K/9’s of 6.0/3.2, but if he can keep the ball down, GB%’s of 54%/40%, and limit the free passes, BB/9’s of 3.2/6.0, both of which are huge questions marks, he may be able to replicate his 2007 success.
Greg Smith: Franklin Morales will likely beat out Smith for the final spot in the Rockies starting rotation, but Morales is far from a good bet to last very long in the rotation and Smith would get the next shot. Smith had an uninspiring rookie season with the A’s in 2008; 7-16, 4.16 ERA, and a 5.3 K/9, and his poor control, 4.1 BB/9, and high FB% rate of 46% is a disaster waiting to happen in the thin air of Colorado.
Nick Massett: After pitching well for the Reds at the end of last season, 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings, Massett was being considered for a spot in the starting rotation this year. However, with his spring so far, 10 ER in 13.2 innings, Massett is fortunate just to make the team as a middle reliever. Being a ground ball pitcher without much power, Massett’s margin for error is thin. With a history of poor control, Massett is too big a risk to use in any format.
Tony Gwynn Jr.: It looks like Gwynn will not make the Brewers team and being out of minor leagues options; he could wind up on another major league roster by the beginning of this season. Speed and defense make Gywnn at best a fourth or fifth outfielder, as he has no power, 0 home runs in 242 career AB, and his approach at the plate, 7% BB% and an 81% Ct%, is not good enough to fully take advantage of his speed. Even if he lands somewhere else, he can be safely ignored in all formats.
Ivan Rodriguez: The Astros officially signed Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year contract, where he should have no problem holding off Humberto Quintero for the bulk of the catching duties. At this point in his career, the 37 year-old Rodriguez does not offer much power, 7 home runs in 398 AB, leaving only batting average and steals as the categories where he can really contribute. However, with a 6% BB% and an 83% Ct% rate last year, plus so much mileage from catching on his legs, contributing in either category is no guarantee.
Humberto Quintero: The Ivan Rodriguez signing pushes Quintero back to second string. With no power, 2 home runs in 168 AB in 2008, or plate patience, 3% BB%, that is exactly where he belongs. Don’t even consider as an end-game play in NL-only leagues.
Dallas McPherson: McPherson is going to miss games this weekend due to discomfort on his side. Considering that he is not exactly lighting it up this spring, 0/5/.216 in 37 AB, any missed time could really hurt his chances to make the team. If he does make the team, expect good power, 42 home runs in 448 Triple-A AB last year, but a low batting average, 62% Ct%.
Mark Worrell: Worrell who was partial payment from the Cardinals for Khalil Greene is undergoing Tommy John surgery and is out for the year. If healthy, he would have had a spot in the Padres bullpen. When he does come back, Worrell could be worth watching, especially if he can improve on his control, as he put up high strike out totals in the minors.
Andruw Jones: The Rangers and Jones agreed to extend the deadline until Monday on whether Jones can opt to become a free-agent if the Rangers are not going to place him on the major league roster. At least the Rangers are considering carrying the 32 year-old Jones, whose power and contact skills declined, just 12 extra-base hits in 238 PA with a 64% Ct% last year, faster than anyone’s skills should at his age. If the power is going to come back, Texas is certainly the right place to playing home games.
Mets: With Tim Redding out and Jon Niese being sent to Triple-A, the final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation is down to Freddy Garcia and Livian Hernandez, with Hernandez all but guaranteed to be the winner.
Hernandez is having a strong spring, 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings, but has underwhelming skills; 3.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 in 2008. It is doubtful that he will pitch well enough to hold the spot very long. He can safely be ignored in all formats.
Garcia, who has made only 14 starts over the last two seasons, has been torched this spring to the tune of a 16.71 ERA. Reportedly his fastball is barely touching 85 mph on the radar gun. Through 2006, Garcia was a reliable fantasy performer with good skill support, but it is doubtful he will break camp on the Mets roster. He will probably start the season in Triple-A, not necessarily with the Mets, and could be worth monitoring, especially if he lands on a team with a pitcher-friendly home park. If he can rebuild arm strength, he may get a shot at some point this season.
Niese has flashed good skills in the minors, 2008 Double-A/Triple-A K/9’s of 8.1/7.3, but has struggled with control, BB/9’s of 3.2/3.2. He figures to get a shot at some point this season in the Mets’ rotation but the control issues means that we may see more of the growing pains he experienced in a brief audition with the Mets last year, 8 walks and 11 ER in just 14 innings, and this spring, 7 walks in 8 innings, .
Phillies: Coming off of hip surgery, it looks like Chase Utley will be ready to go by opening day. If Utley is not ready to go, Eric Bruntlett and Marcus Giles could see time there early this season.
Even if his hip is fully healed, we likely will not see any more growth in the 30-year-old Utley’s performance. Of course that is not a bad thing as with his extremely stable skill set, 2006/2007/2008 BB%’s of 9%/9%/10%, Ct%’s of 80%/83%/83%, and FB%’s of 44%/42%/42%, if healthy, you can pretty much bank on 30 home runs, 100 RBI’s, and a .300 batting average. However there is downside risk if the hip is still bothering him and begins to affect his power.
If Utley misses any time, the Phillies’ options are not good. Eric Bruntlett has some speed, 9 steals in 11 attempts during part-time duty last year, but not much else, 2/15/.217 in 212 AB in 2008. His total lack of power negates his decent approach at the plate, 9% BB% and an 83% Ct%. The growth in the amount of ground balls hit, 2005/2006/2007/2008 GB%’s of 31%/41%/46%/47% combined with his speed could give him some in NL-only leagues if he garners some playing time.
It is hard to believe that back in 2005; Giles was good power/speed source in the middle infield. Since then it has been all downhill for the now 30-year-old, 2005/2006/2007 home runs’s of 15/11/4 and batting averages of .291/.262/.229, with most of his skills remaining stable, 2005/2006/2007 BB%’s of 10%/10%/9%, Ct%’s of 81%/81%/80%, and GB%’s of 41%/42%/44%. While moving to Petco Field can explain some loss of power, it cannot justify that much of loss while a player is still in his 20’s. Whatever the reason is, the disappearance of his power has been long enough, that not even Citizens Bank Park will bring it back. Even if he makes the team, don’t count on him being a fantasy asset.
Pirates: The Left Field job for the Pirates is still open with Nyjer Morgan being the favorite and some combination of Steve Pearce, Craig Monroe, Eric Hinske, and Jeff Salazar still in the mix.
The Pirates would like Morgan to win the job and be their leadoff hitter. While Morgan has the speed and skills to be an outstanding basestealer, 44 steals in 52 attempts in Triple-A last year, his lack of plate patience and contact skills, 6% BB% and an 80% Ct% in 160 AB with the Pirates last year, will likely become even worse with full-time duty. Even if he wins the job, which is looking doubtful with his poor spring, .174 batting average in 46 AB, don’t expect him to keep it too long.
Monroe has been displaying great power this spring, 6 home runs in 42 AB, a skill which he has owned in the past, 28 home runs with the Tigers in 2006. At 32 years of age there should be plenty of power left in his bat, but with his poor contact skills, 71% Ct% in 2008, Monroe will be a batting average liability.
After putting up impressive statistics in the lower levels, Pearce did not have a great season in Triple-A last year, 12/60/.251 in 386 AB, but did show some decent pop in a 37 game audition with the big club, 11 extra-base hits in 109 AB. He nursed a strained calf injury in early March and is not having a good spring training, .217 avg. and 0 home runs in 23 AB. Expect him to start the season in Triple-A.
Salazar is displaying power this spring, 4 home runs in 36 AB, which could earn him a roster spot, then a chance to start if Morgan and Monroe are not the answer. The problem is that the 28 year-old Salazar has not displayed that kind of power in the major leagues, 4 home runs in 275 career AB, and at his age, it is hard to believe it is a new skill. With a career 72% Ct% and little power, Salazar would just be a stopgap, even if he gets the chance to play full-time.
Hinske has been hurt most of the spring, but with his power he could make a good platoon partner. However, if he plays full-time, he will kill your team batting average, 2005/2006/2007/2008 battings averages vs. southpaws of .170/.167/.200/.143
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