Luis Mendoza- TEX- Although he won’t make his first major league start of the year until April 12th, when the Rangers first need a fifth starter, but he has pretty much sewed up that role. Yesterday he held the A’s to 1 run on 2 hits and no walks. The 24-year-old had an impressive year at AA Frisco in 2007, posting a 3.93 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 15-4 W/L record. In 16 innings of work at the major league level, covering 16 innings over 3 starts and 3 relief appearances, he had a 2.25 ERA, striking out 7 and walking 4. I know this sounds dangerously close to liking a Texas starter, but Mendoza relies on a sinker, a good pitch for his ballpark and could be a sleeper. The ceiling is not that high, but the risk will be low.
George Sherrill- BAL- Sherrill was officially anointed the Baltimore closer which, by definition, gives him fantasy value. The problem is that Sherrill has precious little experience in that role, with 25 minor league saves spread across 7 seasons. In the majors he has had troubles keeping righthanders off base, yielding OBPs of between .383 and .448 to them in his 4 seasons. Sherrill is almost closer by default, in place of injured Chris Ray and the Orioles may experiment if the transition from lefty specialist to closer doesn’t go well.
Kyle Lohse- STL- Lohse will be filling in the battered St. Louis rotation and pitched well enough in a simulated game Monday. He threw 70 pitches and got 20 simulated outs. He will face real enemy hitters on Saturday. With his career 4.82 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, Lohse pretty much defines the term “average starting pitcher.” His 734 Ks in 1164 IP pretty much rounds out his mediocrity. Now, mediocre can be good in a deep league where some below average players are going to have to be taken. However, Lohse is not going to be anything to be excited about.
C. J. Wilson- TEX- Wilson has healed enough to claim the closer spot that was his going into spring training. The key to whether he can keep the job is how well he does against righthanded hitters, who got on base at a rate of .381 against him last year. He cannot get by just by shutting down southpaws (as he did with a .112 Opponents’ Average in 2007).
Brian Barton- STL- Due to Juan Gonzalez’ nagging injuries, it looks like Barton will be a Rule V keeper, plucked from the Cleveland organization. Although his batting average dropped from .314 to .264 after being promoted from AA Akron to AAA Buffalo last year, his Batting EYE stayed close, going from .41 to .38. Barton will not get a lot of playing time in St. Louis, but just making the team is an achievement. He went with baseball after graduating with an aerospace engineering degree instead of a lucrative offer from Boeing, and it looks like that decision may have paid off.
Garrett Olson- BAL- The Orioles made a move for the future by sending Olson to AAA Norfolk yesterday. He had been a favorite to make the rotation but, although the Orioles saw no big flaws in his performance in the Grapefruit League, felt that he still needs some more work to establish himself as the quality big league starter they believe he can be. "Olson needs better command of his fastball," said manager Dave Trembley. "He made improvements, but he needs to repeat his delivery and he needs better command of his fastball. His breaking ball has gotten better, but he's another guy who I don't think would have a whole lot of success until he improves in those areas. ... He's not that far away." Olson finished 3rd in the International League ERA race in 2007 with a 3.16 mark, but got pounded for an 8.46 mark in 7 major league starts. Going slowly is a good thing in the long run for the 24-year-old.
John Danks- CHW- Danks has had a very different spring from 2007, in which he posted a 5.91 ERA and 1.64 WHIP. This year he has a 3.77 ERA and has only walked 4 batters while striking out 15 in 14-1/3 IP. Wildness was a problem last spring when he walked 10 in 21-1/3 IP. If he can maintain command, then we may see him progress to where he was supposed to as a prime prospect.
Kerry Wood- CHC- Wood as closer gives feelings of both anticipation and trepidation. Having him in a productive role after being injury plagued for so long is good, but how much success Wood will have is a big question mark. As long as he has the job, he will be a positive.
Jeremy Affeldt- CIN- Affeldt couldn’t add the changeup and make the adjustments he needed to earn a spot in the Cincinnati rotation. He should end up with the same sort of role he had in Colorado, kind of a step up from LOOGY, but not a real fantasy contributor.
Jeremy Bonderman- DET- Bonderman had a tough time control-wise yesterday, allowing 3 walks to go along with 5 hits in his 4-2/3 innings of work against the Nationals. Still, the 2 runs he gave up made him just about the least battered of Detroit pitchers, who lost the game 9-1. Bonderman has now allowed 6 walks in 17-2/3 innings of Grapefruit league pitching. That’s not too bad, but he needs to cut down on his hittability and reduce the 22 hits he has allowed.
Nomar Garciaparra- LAD- Nomar took some batting practice and is looking to get back into games by the weekend. He has been doing wrist exercises to keep them strong while he recovers from being hit in the hand by a pitch.
Geoff Jenkins- PHI- Jenkins boosted his homer total back over 20 in Milwaukee last year, but his OBP dropped to a weak .319 and his struck out in exactly 25% of his ABs, a rise from 23.2% in 2006 and 22.3% in 2005. These are indications that Jenkins may be on the downhill part of his career in a big way.
Hector Carrasco- PIT- Carrasco posted an 8.85 ERA at AAA Columbus last year after the Angels released him and the Nationals picked him up. That does not give a lot of confidence that his success this spring with the Pirates is more than a mirage.
Tim Redding- WAS- Redding was a nice find for the Nationals last year as they cycled through arms by the truckload searching for a passable rotation. In 15 starts he posted an ERA of 3.64. The problem for Redding was that he was getting hit harder as his stint wore on. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to maintain success in his latest stay in the majors or whether his stuff gets less effective as the familiarity of the league grows.
Mike Mussina- NYY- Mussina showed that there is still some life in his 39-year-old arm. He pitched 6 innings of a AAA start, allowing 7 hits. Two of the three runs he gave up were in his last inning of work. Mussina had good command of the plate, throwing 53 strikes in his 72 pitches.
Hideki Matsui- NYY- Matusi is making progress from his offseason knee surgery. Me manned left field in a AAA game yesterday and went 1-for-4 at the plate.