Cardinals SS - Brendan Ryan continues to progress. Ryan will take soft toss on Monday with hopes of seeing live BP the following week. That schedule would have him seeing game action in the third week of March. Tony La Russa was asked if Ryan could see some time as a defensive replacement or baserunner before he's ready to hit. He wouldn't discount the possibility it didn't seem like it was part of the plan either.
Ryan feels he'll be ready for Opening Day while La Russa says the Cards are planning as if he won't be. It's looking more and more that Felipe Lopez will start the season as the Cards' SS and considering Ryan's .279/.333./706 slash line, Felipe has a shot to earn himself considerable playing time.
Last week we cautioned not to be too enamored with Lopez and his "rebound" season last year (.310/9/57). Lopez's .358 BHIP% last year was unrepeatably high and it's likely he'll be drawn back to his norm this year which may not look too much better than Ryan. Add in the split PT situation and neither looks terribly appetizing as draft day approaches.
Cardinals batting order - The Cards slotted Colby Rasmus in the #2 slot in the order on Friday and they would like him to take root there but it doesn't seem like a good fit. His zone command (6.9% walk rate/20.0% K rate) and his contact skills (20.0% K rate, .251 AVG with a neutral .282 BHIP%) don't appear to be mature and his .160/.219/.474 line in 106 AB vs. LHP last year is just scary. The second slot is a thinking/adapting/contact batting position and Rasmus just needs to find his feet in the majors at this point. He especially needs to show improvement against LHP if he wants to earn enough PT to blossom into the player we'd like him to be.
Blue Jays Roster - The Blue Jays don't appear to terribly invested in Travis Snider as a huge part of the 2010 season. GM Alex Anthopoulos told Travis over the winter that he wasn't guaranteed a spot on the roster and while that may have just been a motivational ploy it was misguided. Wednesday Travis batted 9th in the lineup behind Alex Gonzalez ... against a RH starter ... indicating Cito Gaston's feelings about him. He fanned twice against the Tigers that day underlining one of the bigger issues ... his 32.4% K rate in the majors last year (78Ks in 241 ABs). As a result Travis hit just .241 even with a somewhat favorable .316 BHIP%. Throughout his pro career Travis' K rate has been like our current unemployment numbers, about the best you can say on occasion is "hey, it's not as bad as we thought it would be" ... although you can't even say that about his tour with the big club last year.
Travis is going to strikeout ... a lot. And it's not likely to get too much better going forward although he will get better. But, given sufficient ABs, Travis will also hit 25+ HRs. Whether he'll get those ABs is likely dependent on whether the Jays brass focuses on the former or the latter truth.
What's more disturbing however is Snider's .225 AVG. and .275 SLG% against LHP last year. It's a small sample (40 ABs), but the results have significant historical support as well. What's important to keep in mind here is that Travis is still only 22. He has learned all he can in the minors, and the Jays really should just give him one of the COF slots and bat him 6th and see where we end up in 500 ABs . What makes forecasting so difficult is that it's not always enough to be able to evaluate a player's skills. You also have to divine his opportunity. Often a player's skill will eventually dictate his opportunity but not always. Tell me that Travis will get 500 ABs this year and I'll tell you he'll hit .260, maybe a little better and hit 25 HRs. Tell me he's going to get 400 ABs, predominantly against RHP and I'll tell you he may hit .270 with 18-20 HRs. I have a pretty good idea what Travis can do ... I just don't know what Cito and the Jays will do about Travis
Blue Jays Starting Rotation - Big wheel keeps on turning as Tina would say ... Brandon Morrow pitched two hitless innings against the Phils on Friday all but cementing his spot in the starting rotation. The Blue Jays may be falling into the classic trap of trying to project starters results on a moderately effective reliever. And they were encouraged by his 3.68 ERA and .243 OBA in 51.1 IP as a starter and a very hot finish last year. Fair enough ... But I see his 1.47 career WHIP and I see him pitching in the AL East and I think I will probably be looking at an AL-average starter ... 9-12 wins if he gets 28 starts ... a 4.50-4.70 ERA ... He could be a nice 4 or 5 options late in an AL-only draft. Of course his 124.2 IP last year (over 2 levels) was pretty much twice his previous career high to that point, and he should top that again this year. He did pitch very well after the break however and while you have to be wary of a late fade, that should be less of a factor this year than last.
David Purcey's grasp on a rotation slot if more tenuous than Morrow's and his 3 runs allowed to the Phils (7 hits) in two IP on Friday didn't help ...What did help however was Bret Cecil's kitchen prowess. Cecil sliced the thumb on his left hand while cooking and missed two innings of work on Thursday. The injury doesn't appear to be serious and the Jays expect Cecil to be available with a few days ... Dustin McGowan (offseason shoulder surgery) has been scheduled for work in a simulated game on Tuesday or Wednesday. He has been working on the side and it may not take long for him to get into the fray once he passes this hurdle. His performance in that outing will be less interesting than how his shoulder feels the next day. The last two starting slots for the Jays are fairly wide open and Dustin could quickly enter the mix barring a setback.
The Red Sox Starting Rotation - An incredibly dull and drama-less Sox camp continues with almost nothing in doubt. Daisuke Matsuzaka is as big a question mark as there is in camp this year. He threw 58-pitches on the side on Friday and appears ready for his first game action of the spring.
His 18-3, 2.90 in 2008 was a bit of a mirage. He was helped by a .267 BHIP% and 80.6% LOB%. Still we can throw last year out for the purposes of forcasting this year. Matsuzaka says he injured his thigh before camp last year and battled injuries all season. He has battled a sore back this camp but appears to be ready to work. Dice worked hard in the offseason and arrived at camp in visibly better shape. It's unlikely that Dice-K repeats 2008 in any shape or form this year but there's every possibility he puts in a well above average season for the Sox. Last year's problems should drive down his price in your league to the point where he'll almost certainly return more than you pay for him. I think 12-15 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA is an entirely reasonable expectation ... Just make sure you don't pay for 2008 however.
Angel Guzman - Do you remember the scene in Days of Thunder when Harry Hogge sees that puddle of fluid under Cole Trickle's car after he gives the car his inspirational speech the night before the race? He looks at the car and says "This is not the answer I'm looking for from you.". It's looking like the Cubs saw a proverbial puddle of fluid under Angel Guzman's shoulder in a scheduled MRI yesterday, Lou Pinella's demeanor in answering questions about Guzman yesterday suggests we should brace for bad news today.
Nick Johnson - Nick Johnson should miss a day or two with a sore lower back that cropped up during BP on Friday. No one seems worried. he will sit today but could play as early as tomorrow.
Mark Buehrle - Mark Buehrle says he'll basically skip his next scheduled spring training appearance after giving up one unearned run yesterday against the Dodgers. Beuhrle told the club that he'd like to limit his IP In the spring a bit. He says he'll next pitch in a game again on March 15th. There's no injury involved here, just Mark mixing up his spring routine a bit.
Adeiny Hechevarria -That shot you heard was the starting pistol on the Adeiny Hechevarria sweepstakes. Hechevarria's agent says he is officially a free agent after being cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Committee. The Yankees and Cubs are said to have great interest in the 21-year-old Cuban SS. The Angels should be involved too. Hechevarria is young and raw but is thought to be a better bat than 19-year-old Jose Inglesias who the Red Sox signed for $8M. One scout said Hechevarria would be the first overall pick in the draft if he were entering the league that way, but he had doubts as well saying that he didn't know if Hechevarria was a "can't-miss" major leaguer. Hechevarria may not be able to stick at SS because of issues with his throwing release, and he may eventually move to CF.
Alex Rios - Rios who missed the White Sox exhibition opener with a sore shoulder says it's nothing to worry about. Rios says he's battled the soreness "for a few years". Rio was the White Sox DH on Friday and whiffed as part of an 0- for -3. Yep he's right ... he's fine.
Tony Sanchez - The Bucs' first pick in last years draft (4th overall), catcher Tony Sanchez out of BC went deep off of the Orioles Troy Patton in yesterday's exhibition tilt. Sanchez is more noted for his defense than his bat so this was a nice plum. Tony is likely at least a year away and should open the season in High-A, In 156 ABs for West Virginia in the SAL last year, Tony hit .321 with 7 HRs (15 doubles, .561 SLG%) and 34 Ks (21.9%) against 20 walks (11.2%). His .321 was helped by the tailwind of a .356 BHIP% but obviously there's some stick to work with here.
Jarrod Washburn - Fox reports that the Tigers are still interested in free agent left-hander Jarrod Washburn but they want to wait out Brandon Webb a little before trying to make a move on him. The Mariners are also said to be interested and a season at Safeco would make Washburn a lot more interesting.
Ben Sheets - Sheets wasn't overpowering in his outing on Friday against the Brewers who got to him for 4 singles and 2 runs in 5 outs. The real gauge in this particular outing however was that Ben could complete it and of course how his elbow responds today. There's no reason to be terribly worried, Ben's entire panel looks green at this point. The way Billy Beane hopes this works is that Sheets stays healthy and pitches well into the summer at which point Beane can trade him and his one-year-at-$10M-plus-incentives contract to a contender. Sheets could be very effective in the Coliseum and be a valuable asset in AL-only leagues. Keep his injury history in mind however and realize there's no telling where, or even whether, he'll be pitching on August 1st.
Brendon Snyder - Orioles 1B prospect Brandon Snyder left Friday's game after being plunked on the left knee by the Pirates' Ramon Aguero. The Orioles called his removal from the game a precaution and he could be back in the lineup as early as today.
Justin Masterson - A nice outing for Justin Masterson on Friday against the Reds as he hamstrung the Reds regulars in two scoreless IP. Justin allowed just one hit and coaxed 3 groundball outs and 3 whiffs out of the Reds. The amount of ground balls he throws is a key indicator for Justin as a starter although he can show true punch-out ability on occasion. if Justin were pitching in the NL this year he'd have a chance to excel. In the AL however, it remains to be seen whether Masterson will remain a tease or whether he's ready to assume a full time starting role in the majors. He should be available at a reasonable price in most leagues and he's worthy of a late flier as a reserve starter in AL-only leagues (you should allow yourself to cherry pick his starts and be able to reserve him during rough stretches this year. Justin shouldn't be a guy you depend on). If you get him cheaply enough you could see a significant dividend this year.