Chris Carpenter- STL- Preseason- Carpenter’s lost season was the second time in 5 years he has been out an entire year (I’m not counting his 6 innings in 2007). His 2005 and 2006 were superb, with sub-3.00 ERAs. However, he is now going to be 33 when he is ostensibly ready to return later this season. Given his past injury history, it’s not worth giving Carpenter even a late look in the draft and hoping for some late season boost. The risk is too high for the likely reward.
Dallas McPherson- FLA- Preseason- McPherson has a decent shot at replacing Miguel Cabrera at 3B. Actually, that should be more like taking over at 3B from Cabrera because there is no chance that McPherson can truly replace him. The former Angels’ prospect just hasn’t been able to get control of the strike zone and missing all of last year with back surgery couldn’t have helped. Sure, McPherson has showed power in his brief major league career (18 homers in 360 ABs) but his Batting EYE is a dismal .19. McPherson has posted that number by being dreadful from both sides, walking only 23 times and striking out 121. If McPherson can land the starting job with Florida, there is a high likelihood he won’t be able to keep it.
Aubrey Huff- BAL- Preseason- Huff may get a chance at more ABs at 3B this year, particularly if Melvin Mora continues his career slide or gets hurt again. After adjusting his stance late in the season Huff hit .363 in August and .330 in September. If he recovers from hernia surgery as expected and resumes his late season performance, his bat will be in the lineup. Some of his ABs will have to be at 3B, given the Orioles glut of veterans in the DH spot and at 1B.
Dennis Sarfate- BAL- Preseason- Acquired from the Astros in the Miguel Tejada trade, Sarfate has been handed a bullpen spot by manager Dave Trembley. Sarfate will definitely still be learning on the job. As with many young, hard-throwing pitchers, the questions around Sarfate revolve around control. At AAA Nashville he allowed 47 walks in 61-2/3 IP. However, once he was claimed by Houston and brought to the majors he only walked one in 8-1/3 IP. For the Brewers the previous year he gave up 4 walks in the same number of innings in a brief major league call up. The odds are that life in Baltimore will be bumpy for Sarfate for awhile. He will not be in a role that gives a lot of fantasy value, either. File him in the “keep an eye on him as he might break out very quickly” column.
Brandon McCarthy- TEX- Preseason- McCarthy came to the Rangers before last season with some hype as a prime prospect for the White Sox. As often happens with such pitchers when they reach Arlington, he didn’t live up to it. Landing on the DL twice with a blister and then a stress fracture certainly didn’t help. There is hope, though. He actually pitched better in The Ballpark (or whatever it’s called nowadays), with a home/road ERA split of 4.17/5.43. McCarthy tended to keep the ball down better at home where his ground out/fly out ratio was .82 against only .60 on the road. If he can learn to keep the ball down everywhere, he should show improvement.
Adam Wainwright- STL- Preseason- Converting back to a starter seemed to take a toll on Wainwright as his 2007 season was very rocky at the beginning. On May 15th his ERA stood at a whopping 6.34 and he had walked 22 in 44 IP over 8 starts. After that he turned things around in a big way. In his final 24 starts Wainwright only walked 48 in 158 IP and finished with an ERA of 3.70 for the season. After being on the brink of getting yanked from the rotation he established himself as a solid member. What remains to be seen now is whether the Cardinals hardball tactics in salary matters has any psychological effect on Wainwright. Odds are it won’t.
Roy Halladay- TOR- Preseason- Halladay’s appendicitis last year may have been the best thing for him. Even with undergoing an appendectomy, he ended up making 31 starts that covered 225 IP and threw 3337 pitches, 13th most in the AL. Without the enforced break he may have approached the 266 IP he threw in 2003. After that campaign Halladay had two injury-shortened seasons. This was not likely a coincidence. Reducing his workload in 2007 makes it more likely he will remain healthy throughout 2008.
Boof Bonser- MIN- Preseason- A statistical oddity plagued Bonser last season. His BHIP against righthanders was .231, but against lefties was a whopping .401. His strikeout, homer, and walk splits were just about even, but it was this BHIP anomaly that resulted in a .349 to .214 batting average discrepancy. Some reversion to the mean as well as Bonser’s apparent dedication as evidenced by his weight loss could signal that he is ready to reach the promise he showed as a prime prospect.
Gil Meche- KC- Preseason- Meche was a victim of the second worst run support in the AL in 2007 (Carlos Silva was the only starter who got less help). With Alex Gordon having more major league experience under his belt and a new manager who will try to manufacture runs if necessary, Meche shouldn’t have to suffer through that experience again. The main factor in Meche’s success last year was in reducing his walks. If he can keep that up the win total should also improve.
Fernando Rodney- DET- Preseason- In leagues where holds count, Rodney could have immediate value. Considering that Todd Jones is still hanging on as the Detroit closer, Rodney could also end up with saves if Jones finally goes over the line where his effectiveness falls to the point of getting demoted.
Brad Hawpe- COL- Preseason- In 2006 Hawpe was a road warrior, posting a .303 average with 16 homers in 261 ABs at a reasonable elevation level as opposed to a .282 average with merely 6 homers in 238 ABs at Coors Field. Last year, he turned that around, becoming more of the traditional Rockies player with 19 homers and a .308 average in 263 home ABs while hitting .273 with 10 homers in 253 road ABs. Signing the multiyear contract with Colorado cements his value, but it wouldn’t plummet if he ended up going elsewhere.
Asdrubal Cabrera- CLE- Preseason- Last year Cabrera posted a .300+ average in the minors for the first time, hitting a combined .310 at AA Akron and AAA Buffalo. Cabrera’s Batting EYE was a remarkable .94, quite a turnaround from the .46 he owned going into the season. Once Cabrera was promoted to Cleveland, he still maintained a .59 mark. Keep a watch on that Batting EYE. If his mark from the minors last season was truly an indication of a breakthrough, then he may have an easier time adjusting to the majors than the Indians expect.
Daisuke Matsuzaka- BOS- Preseason- Dice-K mania is nowhere near last year’s level, although it is nice to see him put up a good start. In head-to-head leagues his early season value is problematic. The early Japan series messes with the stats and the rotation. Plus, the impending birth of his child could throw a wrench into Dice-K’s works. It’s not enough to avoid him, but can have some early season impact.
Mike Hampton- ATL- Preseason- We’ve seen optimistic reports about Hampton before. He may be fine now, but it can only take a moment for him to suffer some sort of season-ending injury. If you look up “brittle” in the sports dictionary, Hampton’s picture is there. I hope that Bobby Cox is not counting on the 35-year-old to put in a performance like he did in his first year with Atlanta five seasons ago.
Nick Adenhart- LAA- Preseason- Putting Adenhart into the major league rotation could be a bit premature. He is still only 21 and needs to increase his control. In 153 AA IP last year he walked 65 and hit 17. Adenhart is a prime prospect but the Angels should resist the lure of promoting him too quickly and screwing him up in the long run.
Troy Percival- TB- Preseason- It’s looking like Percival will once again have a closer role. Sure, it’s with the Rays and yes, he’ll be 39 by the time the season ends, but as long as he holds up physically, that’s some positive fantasy value.