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Preseason Prep - March 31st

Schuyler Dombroske

Daisuke Matsuzaka - Matsuzaka's first spring start looked remarkably like last year's action, as the Red Sox hurler tossed five innings, allowing only two hits and two runs (one earned) with three walks and two K's. Matsuzaka's ERA was expected to be almost a full run higher than his posted 2.90 in 2008 with the peripherals that he posted, but as the season wore on last year it looked more and more like something that might be somewhat repetitive for him. I would expect some regression this year, but perhaps not enough to offset the warranted skepticism about him in some corners. He is still a very valuable member of any rotation for the foreseeable future.

Oliver Perez - Good Oliver was back in form yesterday for the Mets, hurling 6 1/3 innings and allowing three hits and a run (a homer by Adam Jones) with one walk and three K's. The key for Perez is always his control, as his mechanics seem to come and go with the humidity or something. He is an excellent guy to carry on a roster with one or two extra SP's, as his hot streaks can be extremely beneficial to any team, but his cold spells can push your WHIP through the roof. Watching how his new home park is going to play will be important in the early going as well, because Perez is one of the more flyball-oriented pitchers in the league.

Trevor Hoffman - Trevor Hoffman is heading to the DL to recover from a strained oblique, likely opening the door for Carlos Villanueva to pick up any first-week saves that come up. You might think of grabbing Villanueva as a last bullpen arm for the first week or two, although Hoffman's DL stint only has to last the first four games. At age 41, it might not be his only visit to the list this season.

Ryan Braun - Braun was back in the big league lineup yesterday, and despite an 0-3 showing pronounced himself pleased with the results. He had a similar issue with his ribcage last season and played through it for the most part, so I wouldn't feel it necessary to downgrade him at all for this.

Kenshin Kawakami - Kenshin Kawakami fared rather well in his matchup against Dice-K yesterday, as the Brave right-hander tossed six innings, allowing four hits and two runs with four K's. I wouldn't expect Kawakami to be much more than a mid-rotation starter this season despite the fairly impressive breaking ball he has exhibited, and at age 34 his shelf life is probably pretty short. Still, he could prove to be a useful addition in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only leagues for 2009.

Chan Ho Park - Park did his best to wrest the Phillies' 5th starter spot away from J.A. Happ yesterday as he fanned seven more batters in just 5 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and one run to the AAAstros. Park has been fantastic all spring, but a pitcher with his gopher tendencies in Philly? No thanks.

Chicago White Sox - It's very disappointing to me that Wilson Betemit has failed to garner major playing time everywhere he's gone, but he does have a major opportunity this year with the White Sox. The Sox are stuck with the declining Paul Konerko and the possibly never-ascending Josh Fields at the corners, giving Betemit a solid shot at some regular playing time in various situations, the most likely of which would be a job share at 3B with Betemit (the stronger hitter against RHP) getting the bulk of the time. He's a nice sleeper for me in deeper leagues, particularly if OBP is weighted over AVG......Brent Lillibridge could be a cheap source of steals in deeper leagues once Chris Getz's 15 minutes are up, but last year's miserable AAA campaign has left "a cheap source of steals" as his likely ceiling......As far as flyers go, a last pick of Gordon Beckham wouldn't be the worst thing in the world either. With Alexei Ramirez seemingly entrenched at SS now, 2B is looking pretty barren, and Beckham has impressed enough people this spring that desperation could cause a premature call-up.

Cleveland Indians - I can see the upside with all three of them, but expecting Scott Lewis, Anthony Reyes, and Mr. Glass to all perform well in 2009 is way too optimistic for me. With that in mind, keep an eye on David Huff, who had an excellent 2008 split between AA and AAA. The 24 year old lefty could certainly break into the rotation at some point this season and give the Tribe another solid southpaw starter.....My bias toward Asdrubal Cabrera is duly noted, but at age 23 (and with 2nd half numbers of 320/397/464 last year) he could be ready to break out this year......Grabbing one or two of the Indians' stellar set-up men was a good strategy before due to the presence of the always flammable Joe Borowski, but it's still a decent plan with the better but more fragile Kerry Wood in the fold. Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez (my favorite of the group long-term), and Jensen Lewis are all solid relievers that are one ligament away from an awful lot of fantasy value

Detroit Tigers - It looks more and more like Jeremy Bonderman is going to begin the year on the DL, opening up a spot for either Zach Miner or today's starter Rick Porcello. Miner isn't much better than replacement level, but if the Tigers make the bold move and go with Porcello that's a high risk/high reward situation for any owner. He may very well not be ready (his K/9 in A-ball last year was surprisingly subpar), but scouts rave about him incessantly. He's yet another solid last pick in an AL filled with sleepers this year.....Speaking of sleepers, it would take a lot (apparently) for the Tigers to unearth Mike Hessman from AAA, but the man has 98 homers the last three year between AAA and the majors (9 in MLB in just 88 PA's). Brandon Inge is mediocre, Gary Sheffield is in steep decline, and Carlos Guillen is fragile. It isn't hard to envision a scenario without two of those guys where Hessman is forced to step in, and if that happens he will be a cheap source of power.....As with a couple of the other Central teams, keep an eye on the talented set-up men (Rodney and Zumaya) in front of the somewhat brittle closer (Lyon). Both will help in ERA and WHIP in all likelihood, and they're also just a fraction away from a lot more value.

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